Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

"Very Good"

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War Review


To call Tae Guk Gi the Saving Private Ryan of Korea (as many critics have) is both accurate and off the mark. Accurate because the battle scenes in this Korean War epic are as grisly as anything you've ever seen, and off the mark because the story is much more personal and family-centric than Spielberg's grand symphony of patriotism.

In the pre-war Seoul of 1950, older brother Jin Tae (Jang Dong Gun) is a happy-go-lucky shoeshine boy and amateur cobbler who works hard all day so that younger brother Jin Seok (Won Bin), a star student, can finish high school, go on to college, and become the savior who will lift his entire extended family into the middle class. Jin Tae's devotion to his younger brother is absolute.

But then comes the war, in the form of Army trucks rumbling down the streets and soldiers snatching all the young men they spot and herding them off the train station for a quick ride straight to the front. Jin Seok is grabbed, and Jin Tae races right onto the train to snatch him back, only to be snatched himself. Both brothers are off to war.

And what a war. Nothing you've seen before, not even Ryan, prepares you for the carnage that writer/director Kan Je-guy choreographs. Shot in the same frantic handheld style that Spielberg used so effectively, the battles, which come relentlessly, one after the other, are sheer chaos. Jin Tae soon realizes that the best way to protect his fragile brother will be to volunteer for the kinds of insane missions that will make him a hero and give him the clout to request a favor from the top brass: send my brother home. As it turns out, Jin Tae is an excellent soldier, dispatching Commies by the dozen and dodging the mines, grenades, flamethrowers, and napalm that turn many of his comrades into dust before our horrified eyes.

Because the battlefront moved up and down the Korean peninsula many times in the course of the war, civilians were always caught in the crossfire, and Tae Guk Gi is especially forceful in its depiction of civilian atrocities. Neither side is innocent. The Communists slaughter entire villages as they retreat (but not before stringing up women and children from the tallest tree), but back in Seoul, anti-Communist factions are rounding up suspected collaborators, including anyone who was ever lured to a Red rally in order to get some of the food they were handing out. They're typically executed within minutes.

One of those victims turns out to be Jin Tae's fiancé, and he just happens to be home on leave to witness her execution. The incident pushes him somewhere close to complete insanity, and upon his return to the front he switches sides to fight for the north, becoming a Braveheart-like steamroller on the battlefield, cracking skulls and disemboweling his foes like a maniac. Jin Seok is horrified; now it's brother against brother, and Jin Tae's original intentions to protect his brother seem to have been totally forgotten.

Tae Guk Gi is reported to be the most successful film in Korean history, and one wonders what young and prosperous South Koreans think when they see the horrors their grandparents had to live through before they were able to build a viable industrial country. Kan Je-guy tells this story on both a grand and a very personal scale. It's the story of a nation, but it's also the story of a family, and of the importance of loyalty to one's family. That message, and the images that go with it, will stay with you.

Aka Brotherhood, Taegukgi, Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo.

Brothers in arms.



Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

Facts and Figures

Run time: 140 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th February 2004

Box Office USA: $0.9M

Distributed by: IDP

Production compaines: Showbox Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kan Je-guy

Producer:

Starring: Jang Dong-gun as 이진태 (Jintae Lee), as 이진석 (Jinseok Lee), Lee Eun-ju as 영신 (Yeongsin), Gong Hyung-jin as 영만 (Yeongman)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.