The Amazing and Sensational Korean War film “My Way“, is my special movie review of the week.
This film is inspired by the true story of a Korean (Yang Kyoungjong) who was captured by the Americans on D-Day. Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted in the Japanese Imperial Army, the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
“My Way” is already out on DVD and Blu-Ray so please check it out as soon as possible.
After emerging as bitter rivals and enemies as young marathon runners, Korean native Kim Jun-shik (Dong-gun Jang) and Japanese aristocrat Tatsuo Hasegawa (Jô Odagiri) both find themselves in the Japanese army, fighting the Chinese and Soviets in a bloody battle. Jun-shik is there under duress, while Tatsuo is a powerful colonel. After both are taken prisoner by the Soviets, their mutual hatred and mistrust boils over into a violence that is only stopped by the continuing horror of the war. Forced to fight for the Soviets, the two eventually rely on each other for survival, making it to Germany, where they are in turn separated and forced to fight for the Nazis. They meet again at Normandy Beach, both unlikely survivors, bonded together by history as they struggle to survive one more terrible battle as the Allies arrive on D-Day.
I have Korean director Kang Je-Gyu to thank for sparking an interest in Korean films. No it wasn’t any of the masters of old who got me hooked, but my first foray into Korean cinema on the big screen was actually to watch his Shiri, and while some may be of the opinion it’s nothing more than a standard action thriller fare, it got me hooked, and to wonder just what more is out there in Korean cinema. And Kang went on to direct only 2 more films over a twelve year period, the first being the war movie Taegukgi, and now My Way.
So in a way, that makes it three films in a row that he’s dabbled with men in uniform, exploring themes like brotherhood and friendship in blockbusters starring some of the biggest names in the industry. And in My Way, he teams up with Korea’s Jang Dong-Gun, and Japan’s Joe Odagiri who play rivals in Cain and Abel style.
My Way is very much like a Spielberg war film in that it has some extremely epic and long battle scenes that are nothing short of stunning, like Saving Private Ryan, with the prospect of hope thrown into the mix. A little like Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, My Way is also uplifting as you watch Kim Jun-shik survive battle after battle, stay true to his principles and attempt to reunite with long lost friends. But even with these moments, the movie is not without its trials and tribulations as friends also die, he is captured and forced to fight for a new army and is relocated even further from home all alongside his bitter enemy Tatsuo.
Besides the amazing battle sequences, Kang Je-Kyu is able to show how stupid war philosophies can be when seen from different perspectives. We witness Tatsuo’s ideology change throughout the film as he digresses from a war mongering Colonel in the imperial army to a forced fighter on the Soviet frontline. Kim Jun-shik was forced to fight for the Japanese army even though he considers them an enemy. While fighting for the Japanese and realizing suicide is imminent, he and his fellow soldiers begin to retreat during a Soviet attack. Rather than letting them retreat, Tatsuo starts killing his own soldiers telling them to die honorable. While fighting the Germans and realizing they are getting destroyed, the Soviet soldiers start to retreat but their commander yells not to and beings shooting down his own soldiers as well. This is the moment when it all clicks for Tatsuo and can now honestly know what it must have been like to be in Kim Jun-shik’s shoes while he was his commander. To me, this was the most important and impactful portion of the movie because from then on, Tatsuo had a lot more respect for his Korean running rival and how cruel it is to gun down your own soldiers when defeat is imminent.
It’s steeped in testosterone, if not for “Shinri” played by China’s Fan Bingbing playing a bit role here as a sniper with vengeance against the Japanese at the top of her mind, and of course with her potential of opening up this film to the Mainland market. Other supporting acts include the good friends of Joon-Sik, such as Jong-Dae (Kim In-Kwon) who probably was the only supporting character given enough time for character development, and being somewhat of an in between of the two men, offering a view of what each of them had, or could have, become. And this character alone demonstrates how adaptable Man can be when faced with circumstances that calls for that fine balance between morals, ideals and the basic need for survival.
My only complaint with the film is that language barriers seemed to be completely ignored when either Tatsuo or Jun-shik’s friend, Anton, were speaking or listening to their captors. For example, when they are in the soviet POW camp, Tatsuo is asked by the Soviet officer to step on his flag but nobody translates this for him, yet he replies in Japanese and somehow everyone else understands him. Situations like this happen a few times and it makes absolutely no sense.
My Way is a solid Korean WWII flick that is very reminiscent of a Steven Spielberg war drama. It’s an expansive and impressive feature chock full of very large scale battles, high production value, terrific acting and solid drama.
4 templar crosses out of 5
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