Published on January 25th, 2013 | by Chris2
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War is probably the best modern movie depicting the Korean War, that I've found to date. I'm putting it right up there with, if not a little higher than the recently reviewed The Front Line. It's pretty damned epic, as far as movies go. Doubly so as far as war movies go.
When war breaks out in Korea in 1950, brothers Jin Tae Lee (Dong-gun Jang) and Jin Seok Lee (Bin Won) are effectively conscripted, and torn from their family. Jin Seok rightfully shouldn't be drafted, as he has a mild heart condition, and Jin Tae's effort to get him off the train seals his fate instead. What happens is Jin Tae makes a pact with the commanding officer that if he can earn the greatest military medal available, Jin Seok will be allowed to go home.
From here on, Jin Tae's mission is to be as gung-ho as possible, while at the same time protecting Jin Seok, much to the latter's chagrin. There are some epic battle sequences, some friends lost, some heinous civilian massacres, and much pain all around. Eventually, they get around to finding Jin Tae's love, Young Shin... just as she's executing for being a communist sympathizer. At the same time, Jin Seok is taken prisoner, and there is a fire which causes Jin Tae to believe that Jin Seok was killed.
This pushes him over the edge, and he goes over to the dark side, and essentially becomes the most feared soldier in the North Korean "Flag Unit." More battles ensue, and Jin Seok eventually finds his way back to the front, where he finds himself at battle with Flag Unit, and fatefully, his own brother.
In a tragic case of too little, too late, Jin Tae recognizes his brother and... well I don't want to spoil the ending. Let's just say that good does triumph here, even though the final outcome is not what you'd hoped to be.
Tae Guk Gi is a pretty damned ambitious production. And it manages to pull of damn near every second of it. If it has a flaw, it is that it tries too hard to be epic in its epicness. With the sweeping, at times melodramatic score and equally melodramatic slow-motion scenes.... but then that is somewhat of a hallmark of the Korean war movies I've seen, apparently its a required ingredient.
Regardless, there is never a dull moment, and at times even a hardened war-movie veteran like myself will get upset or a little squeamish. Seriously, there are some gruesome and nasty moments, and lots of moments where your faith in humanity will be tested. Ultimately, everything falls into the right place and you'll walk away knowing you witnessed something that should have been made years ago.
"The Forgotten War?" Not if you're Korean, and more movies like Tae Guk Gi find their way to our shores to remind us of what happened, the better as far as I'm concerned. I'm giving this a full 9/10. The entire movie is out there on YouTube, but I won't link to it, you'll have to find it yourself.
Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War
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A big, bruising epic of the Korean War, Tae Guk Gi smashed box-office records when it played in South Korea in 2004, almost as though the country needed to re-live the trauma at a 50-year distance. For the rest of the world, this movie looks like a ground-level reckoning in a melodramatic key, with an authentic feel for battle lines as well as home front...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
- Dong-gun Jang
- Bin Won
- Eun-ju Lee
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: Another epic Korean War movie from Korea, about the bond of family and the heinousness of civil war.