Friday, December 10, 2004

Taegukgi Review!

Back in February, I posted a trailer for a Korean movie called Taegukgi.
I've finally seen it.
All I have to say is...
Jin-tae (played by Jang Dong-gun) is a simple man. He shines and repairs shoes and dreams of opening a shop to make shoes. He's engaged and his brother's ready to go to college.
With the outbreak of the Korean War, his brother Jin-seok (Won Bin) is drafted into the army. Jin-tae does what he thinks a good brother should do and volunteers so he can keep his little brother safe.
Once their in, Jin-tae hears that if he wins the Medal of Honor, he can have his brother sent home. So, Jin-tae begins volunteering for missions. Suicide missions. Stupid stuff that could get a man killed.
Thing is. He keeps succeeding. He survives again and again. He becomes more than a good soldier. He becomes, through the horrors of war, a monster. Jin-seok is shocked and appalled by his brother's change.
Taegukgi is perhaps the most horrific combat put to film. Imagine the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan extended to 2 hours out of a 2 1/2 hour movie. Then, add in all the blood and gore of combat, since that was missing from Mr Spielberg's opus.
This isn't a soft sell. There's no melodrama. There's no Tom Hanks. Things don't end all happy. This is...war.
War is ugly. War is terrible. War is something that those that fight it don't wish to inflict on others.
War changes a person. In Jin-tae's case, it tears him to shreds. He loses everything...his brother, his sweetheart, his sanity and eventually his humanity.
For Jin-seok, the horror of war is only eclipsed by the horror of what it can do to a human being. Seeing his brother change into a remorseless killer devastates him. What he doesn't realize is that Jin-tae has kept his eye on the prize the entire time. Jin-tae still wants nothing more than to send his brother safely home. Nothing matters to him but Jin-seok's life.
What happens when you lose everything that you think matters? What happens when everything seems lost? For both of these characters, war is a madness that infects and destroys and annihilates. Glory and fame can be won in war, but at what cost? What can be sacrificed in order to do good -- and if you do sacrifice it, what does that make you? The movie raises many questions and leaves no easy answers.
Taegukgi haunts you with its imagery, its stark cinematography and its tragically beautiful acting. It's honest, bold and horrible to watch. You feel, at the end of it, that you've survived a campaign, that you've trudged through the mud, and that you're as scarred as the limbless veterans in the military hospital.
Amazing movie. Not the favorite thing I've seen this year...but the best.

Taegukgi resources!
Here's the official site (Good luck getting it to open)
Here's the trailer...
Here's a review from a Korean site...
Here's a review from Ain't It Cool News...
Here's a short blurb from the Hollywood Reporter

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