MY WAY (2011)
I rented the DVD only to realise that it was currently being screened in theatres island-wide.
Long story short, if you thought the excellent Taegukgi (2004) was South Korea’s answer to Hollywood’s unsurpassed Saving Private Ryan (1998), then you haven’t seen My Way. I’ve been watching a lot of war movies of late that involve soldiers who were previously athletes – think Mel Gibson’s groundbreaking turn in the moving Gallipoli (1981) – and suffice to say that the seemingly innocuous and unrelated story arc eventually becomes the one that ties the whole movie together.
While the basis for the movie is very real, the part about being marathon runners is pure fiction. Sohn Kee-chung, on the other hand, did exist, and serves to provide extra juice for the vivid depiction of Korean resentment during the colonial period under Japan.
What I liked best
The epic fight scenes. The protagonists fight in battles that defined the course of that turbulent period: from Nomonhan to Operation Barbarossa, and thence forth to the Normandy landings. The battles are realistically depicted and do not stinge on gore and special effects while maintaining that harried sense of realism that is frequently absent in other war movies.
What I did not like
The inclusion of Fan Bing Bing as the Chinese sniper which only served as an outlet for more anti-Japanese venting and possibly to give some idea of the scale of the Japanese conquests in China prior to the Second World War proper. Her presence was a red herring, nothing more, and the plot could just have easily been advanced (and the rather lengthy movie reduced by quite a bit) without her.
What I felt genuinely happy about
It was an intelligent war movie that played on Asian emotions and drew on a very large part of history to make it work. My Way is reportedly the most expensive Korean film to date; in spite of the incredible premise, there is absolutely no need for suspension of disbelief at all. A thoroughly excellent work, and one that comes highly recommended.