2000s Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Published on January 25th, 2013 | by Chris

2

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Movie directed by:
Je-Kyu Kang

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On January 25, 2013
Last modified:February 1, 2013

Summary:

Another epic Korean War movie from Korea, about the bond of family and the heinousness of civil war.

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

Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War
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Description

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 Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: JANG,DONG-KUN
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Dong-gun Jang
  • Bin Won
  • Eun-ju Lee

Features

  • Factory sealed DVD

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cinematic masterpiece and powerful teaching tool, June 21, 2017
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This review is from: Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War (DVD)
As a college history professor, I have found that the Korean War tends to be, in my view, under-covered in most textbooks. Therefore, I generally supplement this coverage with additional materials. I believe that this film provided a powerful audiovisual complement to the detailed PowerPoint presentation that I did on the Korean War. My students seemed to be very moved by the harrowing circumstances in which the multi-dimensional characters find themselves, so I highly recommend its educational use. Moreover, anyone who is interested not only in the Korean War but also in the overall history and politics of the two Koreas would be very well-served and learn a great deal from this fictional, but brutally honest and historically accurate film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening Epic, December 12, 2012
By 
Dan Mc (Lancaster, PA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War is a long movie, but it needs to be, as it spans the three years of the Korean war.

While the title includes "The Brotherhood of War," it's important to understand that the "brothers" here are allegorical. There are simply too many unbelievably miraculous escapes, amazing coincidences, and serendipitous meetings between the two brothers. These occasions detract from the film, as alert viewers think: "Oh, come on -- really???" But on reflection *after* the film, you should think, "Well, of course, since this isn't meant to be a tale about two actual brothers, but rather the family of Korea."

The brothers are portrayed ably by the actors in this film. The subtitles do not distract as dubbing would. The film uses a realistic "cinema verite" effect which is actually getting old. There are... Read more
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, July 26, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War (DVD)
The only reason I purchased this movie is because I enjoy watching Min Sik Choi from Oldboy act. I knew he had a small part in this and I wanted to see it. With the movie being over 2 hours and 20 minutes long I noticed I had forgotten my initial reason once I began watching it. The movie is an amazing one. I was interested all the way through. From the very beginning it was good and I still wasn't sure how it was going to end until it was over. The movie makes you go through a whole bunch of emotions throughout and it kept me amazed at how great this movie was. I couldn't imagine how anybody wouldn't enjoy it.
When I finally noticed Min Sik Choi in his small part and remembered that was my reason for buying this movie in the first place I was so into the movie already that it just made it that much better. This is by far one of the best films I have seen and I have seen a lot of good movies. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it. It was a movie I will not forget. I... Read more
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Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004) Chris

Summary: Another epic Korean War movie from Korea, about the bond of family and the heinousness of civil war.

4.8


User Rating: 4.6 (1 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



2 Responses to Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    Agree mostly. I gave it an 8/10. It has more blood and guts than any war movie I can remember. One problem is I could not buy into the evolution of Jin Seok from wimp to warrior. There are some cliches like the guess what happens to the dude who shows a picture of his girlfirend. Very entertaining and surprisingly good. Do not watch it in a theater that has splattervision.

  2. woo says:

    the war movie buff/ Jin-Seok never turns into a warrior. He still remains as a soldier at best, but not a gung-ho warrior. The only reason why he goes back is to find his brother and he simply fights for his life at the final battle, there is not scene where he seems like a bad-ass warrior figher like his brother

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