An ambitious tax attorney decides to represent an old friend in court.
“The Attorney” is one of the best courtroom dramas I have seen in some time. Some of my other favorites are “Primal Fear” with Richard Gere and Edward Norton, “In the Name of the Father” with Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson and “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. I would rank “The Attorney” right up there alongside each of them and I have to admit, it is the first Korean courtroom drama I have seen to date. At a little over two hours long, the narrative takes its time getting to the heart of the movie, a story about a group of young book club members who are falsely accused by corrupt police officials as being Communists because they were reading books that the government deemed fascistic and undemocratic.
The movie begins with Song Woo-seok (Song Kang-ho) in the 1970s, a high-school graduate who studies law and wants to become an attorney but quickly learns that because he has no degree, it will take many years to achieve that goal so in the meantime, he must find other means to support himself and his pregnant wife. He finds out that notaries are making a lot of money in their chosen profession and determines that a recent law has made it possible for attorneys to have the legal capacity to also notarize so he quickly signs up and is laughed at by every other attorney in town. Naturally, he has the last laugh when his office becomes inundated with people and his workload triples.
As the years go by, Song frequents the small restaurant of a single mother, Choi Soon-ae (Kim Young-ae) and her son Park Jin-Woo (Im Siwan) because during his lean years when he had very little money, they always took care of him. Park is a young college student who is a member of a local book club and when he is arrested and accused of being a Communist, Song takes on the case when nobody else will. The judge, the defense team that Song is a part of and the prosecution are all about getting the defendants’ sentencing out of the way as quickly as possible but Song makes it very apparent, the moment he steps foot in the courtroom, that he will defend Park and the other young innocent men until they are free.
It was inspiring watching Song, a man who always believed in himself and who never gave up, battling any and all obstacles that got in his way so he could achieve his dream, slowly grasp just how corrupt and unprincipled his judicial system really is and who is willing to lay his life and professional career on the line for a case that he knows to be not just unethical but also unconstitutional. Song Kang-ho gives a truly excellent performance as the attorney who is willing to lose everything in the name of justice. Highly recommended.
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