Two brothers, Jin-seok and Jin-tae, are drafted into the South Korean army when war eruptsin 1950. Jin-seok is bookish and has a bad heart — there is no way he can survive the war withouthis older, stronger brother’s help. Jin-tae takes on one insanely risky mission after another,having been given the hope that if he performs sufficient acts of bravery, his brother will be senthome. He begins to lose sight of this goal, however, as he starts to like the glory of being a hero…and becomes more and more obsessed with doing the impossible.
The story is pretty simple, and so the film’s two-and-a-half-hour running time makes itselffelt in the form of what feels like simply one harrowing mission after another, with little plotadvancement in each case. On the other hand, the battle scenes themselves are very impressive.They may owe, in their rapid cutting and in-your-face gore, a deep stylistic debt to Spielberg andRidley Scott, but the impact is no less ferocious.
I was initially very disappointed with the 5.1 mix. The volume level seemed low, and themusic and effects for the first part of the film had virtually no rear speaker presence at all. But thesound of the battle sequences is spectacular. Artillery shells burst on all sides, and the placementof the roar of guns is very startling. I defy anyone not to jump the first time a distant cannon isfired.
The picture (in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen) is excellent. The colours are strong, theblacks deep, the contrasts above reproach. There is no visible grain or edge enhancement, and theimage is incredibly sharp (sometimes painfully so, when the camera goes in for a close-up on thegrisly wounds).
Disc 2 has all the extras. There are six featurettes, which can be played separately are as onedocumentary. They cover the making of the film from various angles, but also touch on the actualhistory of the war (the most interesting featurette from that perspective is “6.25 and Us,” whichhas interviews with veterans). A storyboard comparison allows one to view the storyboard, thefilm, or both (ten minutes of footage here). Rounding things out are a photo montage and ahandful of trailers for Asian films. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored.
The film might be overlong, and it might be a little bit derivative in its structure (present dayopening and flashback, like Saving Private Ryan. There is still a considerable degree ofpower in the filmmaking.
Special Features List
- “6.25 and Us” Featurette
- “Creation” Featurette
- “War Project” Featurette
- “Preparing for Tae Guk Gi” Featurette
- “Making History” Featurette
- “People Behind the Camera” Featurette
- Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparisons
- Photo Montage