Published on March 30th, 2011 | by Chris3
71: Into the Fire (2010)
Wow, just wow. I'd read a lot about this movie out of Korea, about a band of college students thrust onto the front lines during the start of the Korean War, but I had no idea what I was getting into here. Take elements from Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima, and some John-Woo-like action sequences and you've got 71-Into the Fire.
Summarizing this is going to be tricky, as there really is a lot going on here... The story follows student Oh Jung Boem, as he's thrown into a violent firefight and basically pulls a Corporal Oppham as he fumbles for a bullet watching another soldier get bayoneted. From there he winds up in a hospital, and taken under the wing of Capt. Kang (I think that was right), and then left to protect a school on the front lines with 70 other students as Kang joins the main battle not far away.
Among these students are 3 misfit deliquents dropped off at the last minute, including the stereotypically cavalier Kap-Jo. The contrast between Oh and Kap is deliberate and ultimately resolved, and serves if nothing else to bring some drama and tension to the "hurry up and wait" portions of the film.
Then there is the "villain" of the picture, North Korean commander Park Mu-Rang. His character is done in a suitably "Vader"-ish fashion, if you will. That's about the best parallel I can make.
The students are quickly overcome by their inexperience as they encounter a North recon patrol, and their numbers are quickly halved. Park gives them the opportunity to surrender, but of course they don't take it. They use the tools and equipment available to them to put up a decent "last stand" until Kang returns with some Allied backup....
The battle scenes in this film are intense and brutal, that's an understatement. Stylistically it borrows a lot from "Ryan" and Eastwood's recent efforts. The washed out palette, the gritty fast moving camera shots and "high speed film" look, the at times gruesomeness... and a bit of slow-mo bullet time thrown in to make things really interesting.
But. Here's the rub. First off, let me say that I don't want to diminish in any way the "status" or story of these students. From what I understand this is a quite well known moment in the Korean war, and these kids are held up as heroes (as this picture would indicate) and this film does that justice.
However, there's a point in the final battle where things start to get, well, a little over the top. The rooftop scenes in particular, where the final two students (Oh and Kap of course) lay down an endless rain of bullets and literally pile up the bodies several thick. At some line, reality meets legend, and then it gets crossed, which I think happened here. Does it make for a more spectacular ending? Absolutely! Is it what really happened? Probably not, at least not like this, I have my doubts.
71-Into the Fire is definitely worth the viewing, though. I'm giving it an 8/10. It lost the 9 because of the ending, and a few other parts which seemed to detract overall.
Here's the first 13 minutes or so. I leave it as an exercise to find the rest if you're so inclined.
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Summary: At some line, reality meets legend, and then it gets crossed, which I think happened here. Does it make for a more spectacular ending? Absolutely!