Sunday, September 10, 2017

Movie Review: "Crossing the Line" (2006)

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Movie"Crossing the Line"
Director: Daniel Gordon
Year: 2006
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

An interview with former U.S. soldier James Dresnok who deserted his military post to defect to North Korea after the Korean War.

"Crossing the Line," to us, sounded like an infinitely interesting film on the surface. We like to watch documentaries from time to time, and we like learning about North Korea, strangely enough. Naturally, it piqued our interest to see a movie had been made about a former U.S. soldier who defected to the communist North after the Korean war.

What we watched was much less interesting than it initially appeared.

James Dresnok grew up unwanted by his family and was eventually put in an orphanage. Ever since he was a kid, he knew he wanted to run away, so when he was young, he joined the military to escape his crappy upbringing. At the time he enlisted, he was 17 years old and married to a woman he thought was the love of his life. Then, to add insult to injury, upon returning home from war, he came back to find out his wife had been less than faithful and was leaving him. Shortly after coming back to the states, he re-enlisted in the military and was sent into the thick of post-war Korea. In between shifts on base, he spent all of his money at whorehouses to make up for the time he spent away from his now ex-wife. While in Korea, it was clear even from his own retelling of how the incidents unfolded that Dresnok could not take orders from his superiors, often forging documentation to explain his absences from the base. After one too many times being caught lying, not taking directions from his superiors, and about to be court-marshaled, tired of his life and the way things had gone up until then as an orphan and a divorcee, Dresnok defected across enemy lines to the Demilitarized Zone and to North Korea. Since 1962, Dresnok has lived within the limits of the communist country and doesn't seem to regret his decision in the slightest.

To say James Dresnok is a whiner is quite an understatement. By watching "Crossing the Line," we as the audience are absolutely able to comprehend how hard it must have been to grow up in tough conditions like Joe did. We sympathize with his plight greatly. It sucks when parents who don't really want children have them and discard them so callously and carelessly. But, having a bad childhood and horrible experiences as a kid don't necessarily shape who you are and how you're going to be as an adult because life is what you make it. Dresnok's recanting of his mindset and life events makes us think he's simply a jaded old nutball with a chip on his shoulder. To defect to North Korea, arguably one of the worst, most hostile places on the planet, is a little more than drastic, don't you think? Not only did he defect, but he "sold" secrets to the North Koreans during his interrogation, regardless if they were already known to them or not, and it appears he got better treatment because of it.

What's worse is it wasn't just Dresnok who defected. There were a couple of other men who individually decided to make a new life for themselves in North Korea. This mindset absolutely batshit crazy to us. Does this train of thought sound like that of a sane person? It sounds like the rationalizations of defiant, angry men. Being interviewed here, we learn about Dresnok's life inside the walls of North Korea, including how he reluctantly became a propaganda movie star, but then loved the fame and stardom it afforded him. He was also given special privileges because of his participation in these films and often got more than he deserved in terms of food rations and notoriety, eating like a king while others worked to the bone and starved to death.

Though "Crossing the Line" is thorough, well-shot, well narrated, and well handled, it's fascinating to hear someone's stories of renouncing their American heritage and citizenship in exchange for safe harbor in a country which essentially stopped advancing in the 1960's. Because of bad life experiences, Dresnok gave away his identity and personhood for the collective nation of North Korea. Sit down tonight, be it alone or with your loved ones, and thank your lucky stars you're not as psychologically unstable as this guy. This documentary is bizarre and yet strangely captivating, but there are other better documentaries about North Korea floating around in the world.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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