It’s got a date in the title, it’s from Asia . . . but future-thinking film fans should skip 2009: Lost Memories and hold out for Wong Kar-wai’s 2046. In Lee Si-myung’s debut, the Korea of the near future is totally unrecognizable. It isn’t even “Korea”: Taken over by the Japanese in 1910, the country has never been liberated. Sakamoto (Tae Guk Gi‘s Jang Dong-gun) is an ethnic Korean anti-terror agent whose ancestral allegiance gets provoked by a separatist group’s hunt for an ancient talisman.
The amped-up Dickian scenario features too many frame-filling fireballs, but the proceedings don’t get totally sunk until it’s revealed that the sickle-shaped doohickey unlocks the doorway of time. We learn that Japanese time travelers kiboshed the 1909 assassination attempt on Ito Hirobumi, and that the Korean freedom fighters are just trying to jump back a century and put everything on the right track again. Trouble is, the concept doesn’t quite work. The shooting was only one factor in the annexation of Korea; given Japan’s imperial appetites, surely some other pretext would have been found. Why go back and enforce the assassination (or for that matter, if you’re one of 2009‘s Japanese, prevent it), if things would have turned out more or less the same either way? Why not travel back in time and not make this movie?