The Third Murder

500 Days Of Film Reviews The Third Murder Starring Masaharu Fukuyama And Kôji Yakusho

Leading attorney Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) takes on the defence of murder-robbery suspect Misumi (Kôji Yakusho) who served jail time for another murder 30 years ago. Shigemori’s chances of winning the case seem low - his client freely admits his guilt, despite facing the death penalty if he is convicted. 


However, as he digs deeper into the case and hears the testimonies of the victim’s family and Misumi himself, the once confident Shigemori begins to doubt whether his client is the murderer after all.

Is It Any Good?

Cinema’s many crime thrillers often follow a well-trodden path. The crime is uncovered, the key players are introduced and, after various twists and turns, the mystery is finally revealed. 


However, Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Third Murder is simply not interested in journeying along this path. For a start the killer, Misumi (a superb performance from Kôji Yakusho) is already in custody, having confessed to the gruesome murder in question. 


All that remains for Musumi’s new lawyer, Shigemori (brilliantly portrayed by Masaharu Fukuyama), is to formulate a strategy to spare him the death penalty. The truth is irrelevant, all that matters is the best possible legal outcome.


This is only the start of the story - in more ways than one. Over the course of the film’s (two hour and four minute) running time, Shigemori will be forced to reexamine all that he holds to be true. 


The Third Murder is an entertaining and gripping mystery - an inscrutable puzzle full of challenging and conflicting stories that keep us guessing until the film’s thought provoking conclusion. 



Koreeda uses The Third Murder to explore the Japanese legal system and examine the death penalty. It is fascinating to watch - revealing via the film's cold colour palette how little we can really ever know, how easily the truth can get lost in the process of law.


The more Shigemori gets to know Misumi (via beautifully shot prison room scenes - Koreeda’s use of reflection is stunning) the less confident he feels in his role. The case shakes him to the core. 


Meanwhile, the more he and his colleagues investigate the case, the less they seem to truly understand. Facts remain stubbornly open to interpretation - motives fall prey to the desire of outsiders.


For Shigemori (and also us, the audience), the truth is always maddenly out of reach. Koreeda does not offer us any answers. However, he does leave us with many important questions about the society in which we live.   


Random Observations

Have you seen The Third Murder?


If you have, what did you think of Hirokazu Koreeda’s film? Let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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