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Taegukgi (Brotherhood) (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Asian cinema experts Bey Logan and Mike Leeder. Tears of Fire: making-of documentary. History through the Lens: on-location featurette. Captain's Orders: interview with action-director Jung Doo-hung. Battle Plans: animated gallery of original storyboards. The Colours of War: animated photo gallery. Don't look back in Anger: retrospective documentary featuring Korean War veterans and archive footage. 1950 Re-lived: black & white featurette covering the effects of the Korean War. Honoured in Dispatches: interviews with cast members. Brotherhood: behind-the-scenes featurette. Special Operations: a featurette detailing the logistical challenges. Trailer gallery. Fully animated menus.

THE Korean War is often referred to as ‘the forgotten war’, yet Taegukgi goes some way to ensuring that it might just be remembered.

The film's origins go back to a documentary aired on TV in 2005 about an excavation of the dead from the Korean War.

The programme featured an elderly woman who had been waiting for her husband to return home from the war.

She didn't even get any news about the whereabouts of her beloved for 50 years, but eventually found her husband after being carried to the excavation site on the back of a soldier.

Having finally found her life-partner, however, all that remained were his smashed bones.

Having been moved by the documentary, celebrated South Korean director, Je-gyu Kang (who previously helmed Shiri) felt compelled to make a war film that reflected the stories of the 'lost dead' - those whose memory ought not to be lost by the ignorance of the world.

The result is a picture that contains battle sequences as intense and graphic as those in Saving Private Ryan, which also packs a strong emotional punch.

It focuses on two South Korean brothers – a shoe-maker (Jang Dong-kun) and a student Won Bin) – who unwittingly become ‘drafted’, only to find themselves in conflict with each other as the insanity of the fighting takes hold.

The animosity between them exists because the older brother, played by Dong-kun, believes he can secure his younger brother's discharge from the army by earning himself a medal (or getting himself killed).

But his heroics threaten to change his personality, turning him into something that his young charge no longer loves or respects.

Their different attitudes to the fighting eventually come to a head when the war impacts on the family they left behind in the most devastating fashion.

Though sentimental in places, Taegugki provides a realistic account of the horror that took place during the Korean War of 1950, not just on the front-line but also among the families and communities that were torn apart by the threat of Communism.

It confronts some difficult issues head-on, showing the atrocities that were committed by both sides, while questioning the impact of how war really affects the men left to fight it.

As such, it is unflinching in the extreme and viewers could well feel battle weary, but the journey is certainly worth taking, particularly if you're a fan of the big war movies of Hollywood.

If nothing else, Taegugki provides a chilling reminder of the futility of war in another part of the world where peace remains fragile to this day.

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