Tae Guk Gi – Brotherhood of War

Originally posted on Blog-City on March 11th, 2005 

I’ve stopped and started this review several times because I can’t seem to find the words to describe this movie. I could list a few but I’d need to expound on them for sure. So here goes. A quick list of five words that could be used to describe this film.

Amazing.
Gorgeous.
Graphic.
Heart-wrenching.
Breathtaking.

I’m fully aware that a lot of people can’t do ‘the subtitled thing’ and refuse to read a movie that they can’t understand. I would like to consider myself a pretty open-minded dude, one who is open to new experiences and new flavors of entertainment. That being said, let me say one thing on the subject of subtitled movies. IF YOU SEE NO OTHER MOVIE THIS YEAR THAT IS SUBTITLED, MAKE IT THIS ONE. This show was something else. I haven’t cried in a movie in quite some time (I think Big Fish was the last one) but on top of the fact that I cried at the end of this one, I cried in a movie that I never understood a single word of.

‘Tae Guk Gi’ is the story of two South Korean brothers thrust into the Korean War in 1950. The older of the two, Jin-tae, is a shoeshine boy and engaged to a beautiful young woman, Young-Shin. Jin-tae is fiercely protective of the younger Jin-seok. There is a short period in the beginning of the movie where the loving bond between the two brothers is shown. These two guys love each other immensely and their relationship is a fun one, a very happy one.

Shortly after, North Korea makes a hostile move against South Korea and Jin-seok is taken into custody by the soldiers and shoved on a train. Jin-tae forces his way on the train and attempts to free his brother from military service, only to be forced into service himself.

Jin-tae is a smooth talker and a good negotiator. For the first part of his service, he bargains with his commander to keep his little brother out of combat. The trade-off? He offers his valorous service and the promise to achieve a combat medal. If he achieves these things, his little brother is supposedly going to be given a safe trip home.

Well, war has a way of changing people. Jin-seok is angry because he knows he is being held out of a war that he was forced into. Although he was not ready to fight, he does not want to be stonewalled against doing his duty. Jin-tae is unrelenting and refuses to listen to Jin-seok’s cries for his own duties. Jin-tae makes his way up the ranks rapidly and, in the process, loses touch with his younger brother. The once-sweet relationship has become strained and full of tension.

The war continues with many false hopes of an early end to conflicts. Jin-seok continues to hold an altruistic view of how things work, while Jin-tae descends deeper into his war-riddled attempts at glory, finally coming to a head when…Well, never mind. I don’t want to give away TOO much. Hopefully you’re interest is piqued enough to rent it yourself.

The film is rated R and with good reason. There is no sex, and the profanity (the gd word is used a couple times and there is a widespread use of the words shit and bastard) is all in Korean. So what does that leave? The violence.

Saving Private Ryan was probably the most extreme battle scenes that I had witnessed on the screen up to this point. Well, let me tell ya. Private Ryan is NOWHERE near the brutality and honesty of this portrayal of war. The director knew what he was doing for sure. The scene where Jin-seok gets his first taste of hand-to-hand combat involves a 15 year-old-boy crying for mercy, saying “The North Koreans MADE me fight! Please let me live!” only to be freed and make his move to kill Jin-seok. I have a strong stomach but there were a couple scenes that just made me jump in surprise, just like ‘holy shit they went THERE’???? (the massacre of the townspeople wasn’t bad enough, now you have to booby-trap the bodies???’)

I can’t rave enough about this movie. The ending had my face soaked. And, like I said, I didn’t even understand a word of it.

I’m done blogging for today. I will never be able to write anything else today that comes close to the effort I’ve put into this review.

Amazing, Gorgeous,Graphic,Heart-wrenching, Breathtaking. Those are my five words and I’m sticking to ’em.

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