The English subtitle of this film is "Brotherhood of War." This can have a variety of meanings. Certainly it refers to the two brothers. It can also refer to the comradeship that binds those who fight together. On a much deeper level, it also refers to the brotherhood of those whose bones are unearthed from the battlefield decades later. In the end, even the enemy is the brother.

(2004) Film Review by Darrel Manson

This page was created on October 20, 2004
This page was last updated on December 11, 2004


Review by Darrel Manson
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CREDITS

Directed by Je-gyu Kang
Writing credits: Je-gyu Kang

Cast (in credits order)
Dong-Kun Jang .... Jin-tae
Bin Won .... Jin-seok
Eun-ju Lee .... Young-shin
Hyeong-jin Kong
Yeong-ran Lee
Yun-hie Jo
Doo-hong Jung

Produced by Seong-hun Lee
Original Music by Dong-jun Lee
Cinematography by Kyung-Pyo Hong
Film Editing by Kyeong-hie Choi


MPAA: Rated R for strong graphic sequences of war violence.
Runtime: South Korea:140 min / USA:140 min

For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

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SYNOPSIS
"Taegukgi" is the story of two brothers who are unwillingly drafted into the South Korean army following the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. The older brother (Dong-gun) strives to protect his younger brother (Bin) on the battlefield while struggling to find a way to have him discharged so he can return to their village and care for the family they left behind. However, as the war progresses, the horror and violence they witness begin to take its toll on each man and sever their bonds as brothers and soldiers. Featuring large-scale battle sequences and an intimate and complex look at the social consequences of the Korean War on its country and people, "Taegukgi" offers a unique perspective on "The Forgotten War", which permanently divided a nation and turned friends --and families-- into
Review by
DARREL MANSON

Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA
http://netministries.org/see/churches/ch01198

Darrel has an incredible love and interest in the cinematic arts. His reviews usually include independent and significantly important film.
The opening scene of Taegukgi shows an archeological dig of a Korean battlefield. The workers unearth corroded weapons, remnants of books, bits of personal property, and piles of bones and skulls. There is very little to identify whether the remains are of South Koreans, North Koreans or Chinese. All are placed in coffins and covered with a South Korean flag (which is called Taegukgi.) In the aftermath of war, there really is no difference between the combatants -- all their differences ended at their deaths.

Taegukgi follows two South Korean brothers conscripted to fight after the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950. Actually, the younger, Jin-Seon, was drafted. His older brother, Jin-Tae, is forced to fight after he tries to take his brother off the train that is taking the draftees away.

Jin-Seon is the hope of the family. He has made good grades in school and has the chance to go to a good university. Jin-Tae shines shoes to help make it possible for Jin-Seon to concentrate on his studies.

Jin-Tae will do anything to get his brother out of the army to fulfill the family's dreams. The plan he settles on is to win a Medal of Honor to use as leverage to arrange his brother's discharge. So Jin-Tae volunteers for every dangerous mission, and acts with great heroics and valor. Jin-Seon cannot understand why his brother is so reckless. He doesn't understand that his brother is sacrificing on his behalf. Even when he learns this, he is not willing to accept it.

We often look at the valor of soldiers and assume it grows out of a patriotism and dedication to a cause. There can be many factors in that valor -- perhaps loyalty to comrades, perhaps fame and glory. Jin-Tae's heroism is complex. He certainly seems attracted to the recognition and promotion that comes from his actions, but his real focus is on saving his brother, whether his brother wants to be saved or not. There is nothing that will stop him from this cause. He doesn't care how many or who will be injured or killed in the process, as long as his brother can go home.

War seems like an odd setting to think about ethics. However, as we've seen in the news, right and wrong actions are often a central part of waging war. There are scenes in Taegukgi in which we see prisoners being abused. In our present setting, we are reminded of the abuses at Al Graib. It is easy to understand how the soldiers can become hardened and embittered toward the enemy. Jin-Tae and Jin-Seon argue over the costs of Jin-Tae's actions, even at the death of a comrade that died because of what Jin-Tae was doing. It is hard to focus on what is right, when there is so much evil happening all around.

The film has tried to make the battle scenes as realistic as possible. They are absolutely frenetic, as the camera cannot be still. There is constant motion and confusion in the fighting. There is also a great deal of blood. There is no sanitation of violence here. Nor is most of the killing done at long range, rather it is face to face, often with hands. It is personal.

This War is still very much alive for Koreans. There has been a truce for the last fifty years, but still the armies face each other each day across a demilitarized zone. Families continue to be divided after all these years. In some ways this film serves to memorialize the veterans of the war, and remind them of the sacrifices made.

But in other ways this is a very universal story. It is as meaningful to the current war in Iraq as it is to the history of Korea.

The English subtitle of this film is "Brotherhood of War." This can have a variety of meanings. Certainly it refers to the two brothers and their relationship. It can also refer to the comradeship that binds those who fight together. It could even refer to the shared suffering of both the soldiers and the families they leave behind.

On a much deeper level, it also refers to the brotherhood of those whose bones are unearthed from the battlefield decades later. In the end, even the enemy is the brother.
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