Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

Welcome to Dongmakgol (Review)
Park Kwang-hyun/Jung Jae-young/2005
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...can make you laugh out loud one moment, cry the next, and make you genuinely feel."

During the Korean War, three North Korean soldiers, two South Korean soldiers, and a downed U.S. pilot find themselves in a secluded village called Dongmakgol.

Welcome to Dongmakgol follows this group as they separately stumble upon the village of Dongmakgol. This village is secluded, and the villagers live unaware of their surroundings -- including the devastating war that has engulfed the region. In fact, the villagers live carefree, yet taking care of each other. This group of soldiers begin their relationship with guns and grenades, but develop into something more brotherly. The ending is bittersweet and thought-provoking -- much like the rest of the film.

Welcome to Dongmakgol is far from a traditional war film. This film is more about people, regardless of origin. It blends some action and suspense, but the bulk of the film is filled with lighthearted and charming humor. It's one of those films that really brings a smile to your face. It's also one of those films that can tear you apart thanks to its emotional depth. As I mentioned earlier, the film is also very meaningful. It doesn't preach an anti-war message; instead, it gives a strong message about caring for people. That's all we really are, regardless of color or origin: we're people.

The film stars a wonderful cast led by Jung Jae-young, Shin Ha-kyun and Kang Hye-jung. This trio deliver a wonderful set of performances, they bring life to a film full of wonder. Like most Asian films starring English-speaking actors, though, the English-speaking cast is the low point of the acting. Steve Taschler, who leads the minimal English-speaking cast, isn't particularly bad, but just doesn't have a natural performance.

The film looks magnificent thanks to the beautiful cinematography. The setting looks elegant and pops with rich colors. The music by Joe Hisaishi is also superb; it adds to the film's overall personality, and invokes great emotion. The special effects, particularly the use of green screen, are outdated, but I felt like it added to the charm of the film. Director Park Kwang-hyun meticulously crafts a hilarious yet meaningful film, while pulling superb performances from the cast -- I hope to see more from the director as it has been almost a decade since his debut.

Overall, Welcome to Dongmakgol is a masterpiece. It's a story that becomes much more than a typical war film. It's a film that can make you laugh out loud one moment, cry the next, and make you genuinely feel. It's also a film that can make you think, and think very deeply about its significant message. Although the English subtitles have some momentary flaws in the Netflix Instant stream, the high definition version available is a film that you must seek. Don't miss this film -- for anything.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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