Friday, May 8, 2015

Film Review: The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014)

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Review)
Kim Han-min/Choi Min-sik/2014
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...Roaring Currents works marvelously as a historical blockbuster."

1597: Admiral Yi Sun-sin (Choi Min-sik) must lead his 12 remaining ships against 330 invading Japanese vessels...

The Admiral: Roaring Currents starts off a bit rough. The story drops you in the middle of this conflict. We're quickly told Yi Sun-sin is being tortured by the King, then released to aid in battle — we're not really told much more, unfortunately. After this quick introduction, Yi Sun-sin finds himself preparing for battle, which is difficult due to his small fleet and his rightfully frightened army. Yi Sun-sin must find a way to convert that overwhelming fear into courage. The odds continue to stack against him until the actual naval battle. Said battle takes up practically the entire second half of the film. The battles are a bit contrived but epic. The ending is well-suited for the film — I liked it.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents has a few notable flaws. For example, the rough introduction really isn't all that friendly to those unfamiliar with the conflict. There is a lack of character for practically every character in the film. We get a decent glimpse at Yi Sun-sin, but not the depth you'd expect from a film centered around him. There are also a few plot contrivances scattered throughout, although they're most prevalent in the second half — these are those "convenient" moments in the film, like narrowly escaping death because of this or watching someone's death by sheer luck. Some of the Japanese invaders, like Kurushima (Ryu Seung-ryong), are also treated like super villains -- like something out of an anime, menacing and over-the-top.

Yet, despite these issues, The Admiral: Roaring Currents was a fantastic experience. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained. In fact, this was one of the most entertaining, enthralling, and epic experiences I've had in some time. Admiral Yi Sun-sin has that leader's charisma that makes this film incredibly motivational and triumphant. The buildup to the naval battles, although lacking in deep details, is smooth and engaging. These naval battles... Oh, these naval battles were absolutely fantastic. Maybe it's the sheer lack of naval or submarine films recently, but these were some of the most refreshing action sequences I've seen in some time. The tense strategizing, the roaring explosion, the whizzing archery, the gory swordfights, the dramatic losses... It all blends together for something special. Even with the blatant convenience, I was at the edge-of-my-seat during some sequences with a large lump in my throat. As a blockbuster, I can't praise this film enough.

Choi Min-sik delivers another stellar performance as the legendary admiral. He's very human and controlled, for lack of a better term. Ryu Seung-ryong is a little more over-the-top at times, but he delivers a strong performance as the sinister adversary, as well. The film is shot well. The cinematography, the set design, and the costumes create a very immersive world. This combination really helped amplify the naval battles. The soundtrack is equally responsible — it's epic. Writer and director Kim Han-min skimps on some necessary character, but he meticulously develops this world and conflict. The action is top-notch, and the emotion, despite some convenience, is raw. Kim Han-min also fills the void in the genre — the classic naval battle filled with strategy and suspense returns in full force.

Overall, The Admiral: Roaring Currents is a great film. I can clearly see the film's flaws considering it has quite a few. However, Roaring Currents soars over these flaws thanks to its stellar lead, immersive world, and epic action sequences. Although the film may not work as a biopic, Roaring Currents works marvelously as a historical blockbuster. If you watch films for entertainment and can watch historical films with a grain of salt, Roaring Currents is one of the best action experiences of the year. You might even find yourself choking up once or twice like I did. Highly recommended.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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