Suspense through discomposure

by Mar Sydymanov

The Chaser — Chugyeokja (추격자), 2008

The following text is written by a cinema lover who focuses on single aspects of the film in the title. This is not a conventional movie review. Links to recommended reviews can be found here and here. The text was also published on

Na Hong-jin’s 추격자 (Eng.: The Chaser) is a well-told, and above all, a well-timed film. The excellent editing becomes apparent in the rhythmic pattern of the film: slow-paced sequences alternate with rapid chase scenes, while the real tragedy of time running-out enfolds in the background. By doing so, it pays homage to movies like 16 Blocks (2006) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the latter especially narrative-wise. However, The Chaser doesn’t feel like a rip-off. On the contrary, it manages to create something that other films are rarely capable of doing: it creates further suspense by wearing down the viewer’s patience with certain figures in the film. This is what films like Psycho (1960), Se7en (1995) or The Bone Collector (1999) have accomplished long before. You are frustrated by the incompetence of the system, the police, of certain individuals and foremost by the protagonist. They are all as helpless as the victims. Each mistake prolongs the inevitable ending.

This is the beauty and effect of excellent storytelling in the tradition of analytical drama: the viewer knows more than the protagonist at every stage of the tragedy but cannot intervene. At the point of having a chance to change the outcome, the protagonist fails as he is no more of a hero than the viewer. Suspense through discomposure, it frustrates and it works.