With the bleak, wintry crime drama The Third Murder – strikingly moody, seeped in fatalist atmosphere, awash with ambiguities, and filmed in muted monochromes shorn of life and joy – Kore-eda made a stunning detour vis-à-vis the gently absorbing family dramas he’s most associated with. Its stirring elements of familial bonds and dysfunctions, understated approach, and underlying empathy, nevertheless, did connect it back to his filmography despite the stylistic departures. The film begins on a violent note as we see a man brutally murdered by being bludgeoned on the head, followed by burning down of the corpse. The alleged perpetrator is Misumi (Kōji Yakusho) – that he served a long sentence on charges of another murder decades back, and has also confessed to this crime have made the death sentence a distinct possibility for him. Hence, defence lawyer Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama), who’s assigned to this case, begins his investigations with a sense of cynical resignation. However, the more he interacts with the enigmatic and strangely placid accused man who’s incredibly obtuse in his motives, and in turn delves into his tragically lonely existence, and also gets to know that he’d developed a poignant kinship with the victim’s forlorn teenaged daughter (Suzu Hirose), the astute lawyer starts getting a sense that this isn’t an open and shut case despite everyone’s wishes to close this quickly. Yakusho was terrific as the mild-mannered antihero, as were his interactions with Shigemori – often shot in close-ups with exquisite use of the glass partition. The poetic photography and the compelling low-key score added noirish sensibilities to this meditative, slow-burn exploration of the slippery nature of truth, complex moral quandary, societal apathy, and, ultimately, the vileness of capital punishment.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Genre: Crime Drama/Post-Noir/Legal Drama