Monday, March 19, 2007

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004, Je-gyu Kang)

"A drama about the fate of brothers forced to fight in the Korean War."

South Korea does their version of a war film and it is basically one of the greatest war films ever made. This one and Letters From Iwo Jima will go down in the history books as being some of the best of their genre.

The only true flaw this film has is that you can't help but compare it to Saving Private Ryan. It's a damn shame because Tae Guk Gi runs circles around Ryan, I'm not saying that Ryan is a bad film. I don't hate it but I don't think it's the masterpiece a lot of people make it out to be. The main problem I have always had about Saving Private Ryan is it's constant feel that the film is trying to manipulate you. The overuse of sad music over a "sad" scene is too much for me in Saving Private Ryan. It's doesn't bother me too much but I feel that it fails to evoke the emotions it sets out to. I blame this on the films broad depth. Once again the only depth I have really felt about Saving Private Ryan is "war is bad" It's enough depth to make it a good war film but not enough to truly blow me away. Sure, we feel for the characters, because they are in way, but c'mon does anyone actually feel like crying at the end?

Tae Guk Gi however manages to avoid these flaws. There is a lot of overblown melodramatic scenes but it works in the film because we actually really care for the characters. There is also a very harsh intense reality running through the film that makes these scenes also work. There are tons of differences between this and Saving Private Ryan, but this is the main one. Sad music doesn't make sad scenes. Sad music over a sad reality makes sad scenes.

Tae Guk Gi is really just an amazing heartbreaking film. The direction is great, The performances are amazing. The war scenes are realistic and brutal, but the main thing I can not praise enough is the pacing of the film. When the film is done you feel like you really went on an epic journey with these two brothers. There is no way you can not feel like you have just experienced something when the credits roll.

I really can't praise this film enough. It's one of those films that you feel ashamed of not watching sooner once it's done. I loved every minute of it and I can't wait to show it to everyone who thinks that Saving Private Ryan is the greatest modern day war film.

An amazing film for sure.

- ****

3 comments:

llnk adv said...

I've not seen too many war films to know if this is the best.
I'm still waiting to see Letters From Iwo Jima. Its a been a while since I've seen this......
You're right about the pacing of this film. With close to 3 hours of running time, the film never really drags or slows down. Thanks to great and intense battle sequences and dramatic moments.
Although I found the melodrama a little too much, especially in the beginning where it seems the relationship between the two brothers seem a bit forced. Overall, what seems like a realistic portrayal is effective.

Oh, since you're getting into Korean film, I would like to recommend "Failan"......just caught it today. I'll have a review up sometime.

Ramses said...

Yeah, the melorama was a little bit too much at first and even I cringed at first but the film gets so dark alter on that I missed the sappy melodrama.

Thanks a lot for the recommendation. I am downloading it right now as I type this. I know you are the expert when it comes to asian cinema. Are there any other great Korean titles that you think I should check out?

I only have My Sassy Girl, J.S.A,3 -Iron, Spring,Summer,Winter,Fall and Spring! and A Tale of Two Sisters left to watch.

llnk adv said...

Nah, I wouldn't say I'm an expert. Really I'm just starting out, ever since I posted on RT. RT is useful.
I kinda like My Sassy Girl (which I wasn't fond of on first viewing), it has its funny and emotional moments.
The two films from Kim ki-duk are excellent especially Spring, Summer, Fall...
One of my fav. directors now. But my fav. film from him so far is Samaritan Girl.
I still have to see A Tale of Two Sisters.
Another one of my fav. Korean films is My Boss My Hero.
There's the sequel My Boss My Student which isn't as good, as it plays with the same ideas and jokes.