Tae Guk Gi (2005)
August 3rd, 2007 by Maxim · 6 Comments · 23,991 Views
The movie was released in United States under the title “The Brotherhood of War“.
The plot: This is a story of two brothers, Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) and Jin-Seok (Won Bin). Jin-Tae shines shoes and tries to save money for his younger brother’s education. They live with their mute mother, who runs a noodle shop. The family is poor but they are happy with little they have. The family looks forward to sending Jin-Seok to university.
On June 25, 1950 the Korean War begins. Many young men are recruited right from the streets. When Jin-Seok is enlisted, although he was not supposed to be, Jin-Tae enlists too and swears to their mother to protect his younger brother and send him home at the first opportunity. Jin-Tae makes a deal with him commanding officer: if he earns a Medal of Honor by going to suicidal missions, Jin-Seok will be sent home. Young Jin-Seok doesn’t understand his brother’s sacrifice and thinks his brother is blood-thirsty murderer who’s obsessed with getting attention and earning all the medals he can. Only at the end he sees why his brother has done things he did.
This is a modern war movie: a lot of special effects are involved in creating very realistic feel of the battles. There is a lot of violence in this movie: 80% of it are various battle scenes and gun fights. You can see bullets and shrapnel hit and rip apart the bodies. You can see the unit of solders, the friends and comrades being reduced to a bloody mess. Blood, pieces of bones and brains everywhere. One can see how in this environment people can become murderous, sadistic, or worse – they don’t care any more. To Jin-Seok, his older brother is a casualty of war: he lost his humanity and become a ruthless murderer. Jin-Tae, on the other hand, is prepared to march to the end of the Earth to send his brother home and nothing and nobody is going to stop him, it seems. After nearly loosing the war, hungry and being surrounded, South Korean army was able to recover when Americans (technically, U.N. forces) intervened, and almost reached Chinese border. But China sends reinforcements to the North Korea and the Southern troops are pushed back beyond 38th parallel. Now the war was in the stalemate. Even when peace negotiations began, the fighting continued (to this day there is not peace agreement and North and South are technically at war). Two brothers are caught in the middle. One one front they have to fight the Northern army, back home they, their family and Jie-Tae’s fiancee are accused of being communist sympathizers for signing up into Communist party just to get some food. Local militia is delivering justice “by the law at the time of war”. The justice is swift: accused people are lined up against the wall and shot or speared. Unable to tolerate this injustice, the death of his fiancee, the death of his younger brother (or so he thinks), the hatred of his brother toward him, Jin-Tae defects to the North. And now it’s Jin-Seok’s time to find his brother.
Summary of the summary: a Korean version of “Saving Private Ryan” in a different location and different time. A lot of great battle scenes, yet this movie is a lot more about relationships between people. “Tae Guk Gi” rivals “Saving Private Ryan”, “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now” in presenting the war as the Hell it is (especially a civil war), and dwarfs it in depicting and dissecting human psychology and emotions. Taegukgi shows that wars are not fought by countries, but by real people with families, ambitions, loved ones, bad habits etc. And in a civil war patriotism doesn’t always makes sense. Watch it. You will think about it for days.
- the battle photography is superb. Hundreds of people, lots of cars, trucks and tanks are involved (airplanes were all CGI). Though this kind of action is now de-facto standard for any modern war movie, I can appreciate the quality.
- classical theme music gives the movie epic feel. Very moving.
- over the 2 years of war and 2 hours of film you can see on almost daily basis how characters develop, how people change, or are being changed. Great acting, everyone.
- the movie is also historically accurate (as far as I know history).
- the dialogs were pretty damn awful and worthy of a Mexican soap opera (not quite as bad as in the ”Attack of the Clones”). Kudos to director and actors who could deliver such a dull material with so much emotion.
- the early scenes where the director shows the happy family is so grotesque and out-of-style it’s almost cartoonish: everybody is happy, they smile and laugh all day, they are so happy they run because they need to let their happiness out, they play in the water etc. Having seen other movies from the Far East it’s not unusual: definitely there’s still a lot of influence of traditional Chinese and Korean theatre with a lot of exaggeration.
The movie is in Korean, but English dubbing and subtitles are also available on DVD.
If you liked this post, buy me a beer
1950 | brotherhood of war | brotherhood of war review | Korean War | movie review | Tae Gug Gi | Taegukgi | war movie reviews