Miracle in Cell No. 7 (Film Review)

Our friend, Morgenroete Munitions (not his real name, lol), was kind enough to write a guest post for us on the widely-acclaimed Korean film, Miracle in Cell No. 7. Spoiler alert: it’s great!


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Morgenroete Munitions’ Take

Introduction

During the winter of 2014, my co-worker handed me a movie that was dubbed to be the best Korean movie of 2013. The cover images were compressed and warped, and the movie was split into two separate discs; all hints that this was a Filipino bootleg copy. None the less, to say that a movie is the best of Korean movies is like saying it is the best of the best. As I had exhausted all my anime, and still had a couple more weeks floating in the ocean, I decided to give it a spin.

Synopsis

The movie starts off with what can be suspected as a resurfaced court case. A case that was supposedly solved a long time ago. However, the defendant states that she was there, and the truth is about to be revealed. At first, I was confused by the introduction of what was seemingly random characters gathering for this case, but was severely distracted as Korean Sailor Moon came on.

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Cast of unknown characters.

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Defendant.

A little girl Ye-Seung and her father Yong-Goo were dancing and singing to the theme of the Japanese warrior of justice while awaiting the day they could purchase a Sailor Moon themed backpack. At this point, I gathered that the Yong-Goo was suffering from some sort of mental disability and was tasked to take care of his daughter Ye-Seung all by himself. Just as they were done counting their money, another father purchased the bag before their very eyes. In trying to explain that they had been waiting for weeks to be able to get this bag, Yong-Goo started to use his hands to do the talking. This led him to touch the daughter of the other father which led the fist of the father to meet the face of Yong-Goo.

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Sailor Moon window shopping.

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In store fight.

Out of kindness, the other daughter tries to show Yong-Goo where to purchase one of these bags, but in doing so, is accused of murdering that girl. A quick case is put together where the suspect, Yong-Goo is brought to the scene of the crime to show what he did on the day of the alleged murder. What I saw as poorly executed cardiopulmonary resuscitation was viewed as necrophilia which caused Yong-Goo to be sentenced to death.

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Girl with Sailor Moon bag.

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Crime scene recreation.

Quickly the cast that was teased beforehand, is now fully introduced as the inmates of Cell No. 7, all of which seem to have been there so long that they look incredibly comfortable and uncomfortably close. After a brief introduction, his criminal record is read out loud by his new roommates, which proceed to anger them fairly quickly. Justice, according to Cell No. 7, was served to their maximum capability, which included a blanketed beating.

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New home in prison.

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New roommates after swift justice.

Now, Cell No. 7 apparently was getting pretty popular on the playground, which made certain people unhappy. A prison shank was made in order to kill Cell No. 7’s ring leader, So Yang-Ho. However, despite the beatings he gave, Yong-Goo had seen everything that was going down and sacrificed himself in order to save his cell mate from peril. In return, Yong-Goo is promised the word of a gangster; Yong-Goo of course, wants to see his daughter.

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Rival prison gang.

The word of a gangster.

The word of a gangster.

Through Yang-Ho’s connections, Ye-Seung is smuggled into the cell, and is reunited with her father for the first time since the incident. Although the stay was predicted to be two hours, every attempt to smuggle her back out over the following days had failed and Ye-Seung was stuck in Cell No. 7. Eventually, the prison warden, Jeong Jin-Yeong, catches wind of this situation, and finds Ye-Seung in the cell. A search of all cells became effective immediately; Ye-Seung was sent back to foster care, while Yong-Goo is sent into isolation. That night, an inmate set fire to the prison. During evacuation, Jin-Yeong tried to save the culprit, but instead was trapped in the fire. Yong-Goo, in his amazing situational awareness was able to save him. This leads Jin-Yeong to suspect that Yong-Goo might not be the cold hearted kid killer after all.

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Father daughter gazing upon fake stars.

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Warden catches daughter in prison.

To keep Ye-Seung from starving to death due to depression, Jin-Yeong allows her to visit almost every day to hang out in Cell No. 7. While she taught basic Korean to Yang-Ho, Jin-Yeong started doing a little digging of his own. It is revealed that Jin-Yeong has a strong heart for justice, and like the trial of his own son’s murder, this trial may be rigged by the authority.

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Warden does his own research.

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Daughter allowed in prison and teaches Korean.

The next trial is about to get underway, and apparently this one will determine the verdict. So in order to prepare, the cell mates of Cell no. 7 get together and try to understand what happened on the day of the incident. Through trial and error, the inmates worked together, came up with a theory, and wrote a statement about the incident.

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Prisoners’ research and recreation of crime scene.

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Prisoners’ research and recreation of crime scene.

Seeing the inmates working together and Yong-Goo’s reaction to his personal questioning, Jin-Yeong realizes that there is no way Yong-Goo could be a criminal. He helps him by gathering the hard evidence for the trial. However, to no avail, Yong-Goo is sentenced to death due to police corruption. After the last ditch effort to free Yong-Goo with a hot air balloon, an emotional goodbye between father and daughter siphoned tears to my eyes as the father was lead to his death. And the daughter was kept behind bars.

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Just before the father’s execution.

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Father pleads for help as guard and warden feel helpless.

Fast forward to the trial going on in the introduction, you realize that the defendant is Ye-Seung, and her witnesses are the inmates of Cell No. 7. Through the evidence given and the witness accounts, the jury was convinced that Yong-Goo’s death sentence was a farce, and that he was innocent all along. I guess adult Ye-Seung, finally got some closure.

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Back to the first scene as the story ends.

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Some closure as the father is found not guilty.


Thoughts

This emotional rollercoaster of a movie threw me back and forth from laughing to crying. Although some of the events that occur are not believable in a prison for people who are on death row, all the pieces fit together and worked so nicely. The contrast between criminal drama and prison comedy should not work, but for some reason, this movie did a spectacular job melding the two together. I enjoyed this movie, and I would advise that you enjoy this too!

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Anna: I watched Miracle in Cell No. 7 per Morgenroete’s recommendation, and I’m happy to say that he was right on with how well balanced the story was with its plotline and emotions. I had heard about how ridiculously sad this movie was, but I didn’t really believe it until I experienced it firsthand for myself. (No lie, I sobbed through about 75% of the movie.) But unlike some other films that capitalize on the audience’s sympathy with over-the-top tearjerker moments, the emotions never felt cheap with Miracle. Instead, they only helped to strengthen the story as a whole. Watching it, you really felt for the father and daughter pair and the injustices they suffered. It certainly helped that the acting was wonderful from everyone in the cast, but the real highlight of the film came from the story itself. Definitely watch Miracle in Cell No. 7, but make sure that you have some tissues nearby!

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