Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War

While Taegukgi: The Brotherhood deals with the Korean War (1950-1953), the movie captivates us for its presentation of its historical topic and its extremely well-shot action scenes. Nonetheless, no matter how good the movie is, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is not necessarily a masterpiece because of some minor flaws in the script. Despite that, it still remains a watchable war movie.

The story follow two South Korean brothers. Jin-tae, a shoemaker and the elder, dropped out from school in order to work and to help his young brother, Jin-seok, to go to university. However, when North Korea invades South Korea, both brothers are compelled to join the army. On the battlefield, Jin-tae will do his best to protect his young brother. However, their bond will be tested by war.

Obviously, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is shot in the tradition of Hollywood's war movies (in the good sense of the term) because of its visual and technical aspect. However, unlike what we may think, the presence of some scenes - that are a war movie's trademark and adapted to the South Korean context - doesn't plague the movie: a soldier watching the picture of his girlfriend, a bunch of soldiers introducing themselves during a break, a student who joined the army out of patriotism, a radical anti-communist, etc. After all, American producers don't hold the monopoly on the right to re-create as realistically as possible the life of soldiers on the screen!

However, speaking about the script, the real weakness of the film is actually its attempt to be a little bit like Saving Private Ryan and especially Band of Brothers. In fact, while the script writers bothered to apply nuances in the evolution of the two brothers, we're left with a bunch of supporting characters (the South Korean soldiers who accompany Jin-tae and Jin-seok) that are almost as useful as Christmas ornaments. As a result of that, there are too much supporting characters meaning that we can hardly have any interest for them. Nevertheless, despite being bland on the edges and all made-up, these supporting characters are competently played by their respective actor.

All in all, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is one of those historical movies that you'd rather imagine as a miniseries.

Hopefully, scriptwriter Kang Je-gyu avoids to display exaggerated heroism on screen by actually showing how war can unfortunately instill violence in a soldier's mind. Although the movie mostly shows the South Korean point of view, Kang's script shows a lot of maturity by being relatively impartial. Therefore, don't expect a line to be drawn in order to say who are the bad and the good guys. In fact, the movie also shows bad behaviours coming from some South Korean soldiers: intending to kill disarmed North Korean soldiers or even violently mistreating them, for instance. In the end, although the film is not a documentary, I'm sure that it'll please to history buffs and action lovers alike.

Rating: 4/5

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War
South Korea (2004)
Length: 140 minutes
Genre: War drama
Scriptwriter: Kang Je-gyu
Director: Kang Je-Gyu
Starring: Jang Dong-kun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-ju and Jang Min-ho

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