World of Silence, a.k.a. Missing Girl, is a classic who-dunnit mystery/suspense/thriller/melodrama drama/buddy cop comedy from South Korea. At its heart is the story of a world weary cop and his goofball partner investigating a series of murders of young orphaned girls who appear to have been tripping on non-indigenous magic mushrooms and otherwise treated very well before being killed. No visible signs of trauma. Dressed nicely. Woven into that is the story of a man who possesses extra-sensory abilities and a constantly unfolding history of sadness and loss who, coincidentally or not, appears ahead of the cops at each of the crime scenes and who, as plot would have it, takes custody of a young orphaned girl who has a plot moving special disease.
This film is sprinkled with throw-popcorn-at-the-screen, Crime and Punishment style coincidences and delivered with a controlled ominosity worthy of Brian De Palma and General Hospital. The more films I see from South Korea the more I see that this kind of mixed mellow drama genre bag is quite common. It might take a little patience and getting used to, but when it's as well executed as World of Silence it's a very fulfilling film experience. I hesitate to throw melodrama into the mix because it often conjures up associations of chick-flick, which this flick is certainly not. In the capable hands of director Jo Ui-seok, melodrama is a key ingredient, used almost as a heat check, a dare, alongside mystery elements and light-hearted humor to keep the audience engaged.
Despite the groan-out-loud-inducing plot moves and a few eye-rollers to boot, I loved this movie. The performances are all top-notch. Yong-woo Park (My Scary Girl) plays the world-weary detective with a cynical sense of humor, unkempt hair, and a cool leather jacket he steals from a co-starring criminal who plays a key role in solving the murder case. Sang-kyung Kim, who played that cool cop role in Memories of Murder, plays the mystery man here looking good in an elegant, long black overcoat putting some freak in the head of the world weary detective. A very pleasant surprise is the uncredited young girl who plays the orphan Soo-yeon Park. She is adorably able to transform her screen presence from sad orphaned girl whose father died in a car accident and whose mother's been in a coma for two years but is described to her as just having a really bad cold and needing to take a really long nap, a nap that Soo-yeon hopes she will awaken from in time to attend her upcoming talent recital, to a smiling and feeling-loved 3rd-grader in the length of a breath.
World of Silence peels off layer upon layer, uncovering about five film's worth of internal demons and other dramatic tragedies, but it ends, and it seems to end a few times, like a sportscaster screaming "No! No! I don't believe it! Don't ..." and then "Great shot!" when it goes in.