Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (Review)
Kang Je-gyu/Jang Dong-gun, Won Bin/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...only a few films have choked me up the way Taegukgi did."

The story of two brothers, Lee Jin-tae (Jang Dong-gun) and Jin-seok (Won Bin), who are involuntarily drafted during the Korean War...

Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War starts off as a standard war film. Jin-tae is a hard working shoe shiner, while Jin-seok is a hard-working student. The close pair get drafted as the war breaks out and so their struggle to stay together and stay alive begins. After a few war sequences, at this point, the story begins to focus on character more than the traditional war film. So, Jin-tae initially intended on working hard as a soldier to have his brother discharged; unfortunately, the glory goes to his head and his character begins to change for the worst. At the same time, Jin-seok sees his brother's change and continues to do what is right – he doesn't want the war to continue, he doesn't want to become like the North. The ending was powerful – only a few films have choked me up the way Taegukgi did.

Like I said, the story starts off as a traditional war film and seamlessly transitions into a deep, character-driven drama – and I really loved it. The war plays a major role for the film and its story, of course, and works efficiently to balance the action and drama; the war sequences, among many others, also create fantastic suspense. But, the characters really take center stage. The deep character arcs were unexpected but masterfully crafted. Thanks to the emotional subject of war, the incredibly deep characters and their relationships, and the meticulously crafted set-up, Taegukgi becomes one of the most emotionally-effective war films I've ever seen.

Jang Dong-gun is superb as Lee Jin-tae, and Won Bin is equally impressive. Every star in this film delivers a high quality performance. Sure, the acting can be occasionally melodramatic, but I thought it was well suited. The cinematography and camerawork are fantastic; the film is beautifully shot, capturing every elegantly-atrocious scene perfectly. The soundtrack is perfect in invoking some very deep emotions. The computer graphics are blatantly out of place; fortunately, computer images are only noticeably used during the final war sequence, so it isn't a big problem. Director Kang Je-gyu captures the war sequences perfectly, filled with action and suspense, and the character development is efficient and effective.

Overall, Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War is a superb war film. It becomes much more than a typical war film thanks to the strong focus on character; some of it may feel cheesy or melodramatic, but I thought this style was perfectly crafted. If you're looking for an emotional drama, this is it; if you're looking for an action-packed and suspenseful film, this is it.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Graphic violence and gore throughout.

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