Friday, November 20, 2015

Film Review: Northern Limit Line (2015)

Northern Limit Line (aka Battle of Yeonpyeong) (Review)
Kim Hak-soon/Kim Mu-yeol/2015
Where to watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...a very entertaining and effective film."

In June 2002, amidst the FIFA World Cup fever, South Korean patrol boat 357 is attacked by a North Korean patrol boat...

Northern Limit Line is a film based on real-life events. The film particularly follows Commander Yoon Young-ha (Kim Mu-yeol), Sergeant Han Sang-guk (Jin Goo), and Corporal Park Dong-hyuk (Lee Hyun-woo), as well as briefly setting up the other noble soldiers of Battleship 357. The first two acts setup the characters and their relationships — essentially, we see what's at stake. We also see a bit planning — the foreshadowing of the attack. This buildup is effective, albeit a bit cliché. (I'll explain myself soon.) The film leads to a suspenseful climax with a handful of heart-wrenching scenes. The end of the film somber, offering some closure. (Stick around for the credits!)

Northern Limit Line is a great military-war film. Although it doesn't have the opportunity to set up these two dozen or so men, the film does well with the people it does choose to fully-develop in this ~120-minute feature. You see the connections and relationships, and this does make for some genuinely poignant moments later in the film. The climax was also very well executed, conjuring plenty of tension and thrills. It's also paced and balanced very well, never dragging its feet or over-exposing itself. The film also injects some humor, which was effective and appreciated. It lightens the mood and also helps build up a connection with the audience.

Now, personally, I don't really feel comfortable calling these brave people “characters” considering they are based on real people — even the names have not been changed from what I know. I must say, though, it does feel like some liberties were taken in the writing. There are moments that felt very contrived and moments that felt a bit cliché, like someone conveniently dropping something or specific moments/relationships we've seen in many war films before it. Of course, it's still very effective, but it does feel off at times. Then again, although this film may be the most accurate account, it's always best to take a film made for entertainment with a grain of salt. This, of course, is not a documentary, so I won't hold it to that standard — it doesn't hinder the film, really. It's just worth noting so you can expect those moments to occur.

The cast was great, though. I thought Kim Mu-yeol and Jin Goo were very strong. Lee Hyun-woo was also good. The film is shot very well, each frame looks very nice and crisp. The music matched the tone of the film — a standard war soundtrack, I suppose. Writer and director Kim Hak-soon crafts a very effective war film through meticulous character development and a strong balance — he really understands the importance of buildup. The climax is particularly effective thanks to the buildup. I did feel like some of the writing was a bit off, though.

Overall, Northern Limit Line is a very good movie. I was thoroughly entertained and engaged throughout the entire film. The movie does well in using its characters and buildup to create a satisfying climax. It's not an action-packed extravaganza, but it is a very entertaining and effective film. It's even informative enough to get you researching directly afterward. (I know I did.) It's not up to Taegukgi or The Front Line quality, but it is certainly worth watching if you're a fan of those films.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and some gore.

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