Taegukgi Brotherhood Of War

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Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey

Starring: Jang Dong-gun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-Joo, Gong Hyung-jin, Lee Young-ran

Director: Kang Je-gyu

The first thing that hits you about this epic on the Korean War is the eye-popping nature of its production values. It’s not surprising that it’s the most expensive movie in South Korean film history, but by modern standards it was still pretty cheap to make ($13 million). And yet it shares much with one of the biggest Amercian war movies made in recent years, namely SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

This proves to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand director Kang Je-Gyu treats us to plenty of death and carnage but on the other he slaps on layers and layers of sentimentality, just as Spielberg did. The story sees brothers Jin-tae (Jang Dong-gun) and Jin-seok (Won Bin) conscripted into the army to fight the invading communists. Jin-tae learns that if he can win the medal of honour he can save Jin-seok from the front line, and with this in mind he volunteers for various suicide missions and embarks on a killing spree, until he becomes consumed by bloodlust and personal glory.

It’s here that the story lurches into a more melodramatic tone that doesn’t sit well with the gore and killing that surrounds it. This soap-opera element is made all the more obvious by a sickly score which again clearly betrays Western influences, all the more strange given the current trend of American directors borrowing from their Asian counterparts. The upshot is that while TAEGUKGI aka BROTHERHOOD is visually superb, emotionally it’s a bit of a mess.

4 out of 6 stars