"Don't go in expecting Apocalypse Now; Taeguki isn't that ambitious."

- Iuxion

Taegukgi (2004)

AKA: Taeguki: The Brotherhood of War, Brotherhood

Director: Je-gyu Kang

Writer: Je-gyu Kang

Cast: Dong-kun Jang, Bin Won, Eun-ju Lee

Running Time: 140 min.

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


IUXION'S REVIEW: From the creators of the acclaimed Shiri, comes Taeguki, a Korean War production that rivals just about any recent Hollywood war film, including Saving Private Ryan, a film that I'm sure gave Je-gyu Kang just a little inspiration. So I guess the obvious question is, is this the better film? And the answer is, well, I don't really know.

The story of two brothers, who are recruited to fight on the side of the South, Taeguki doesn't stray far from your basic war flick. In fact, I'd go as far to say that there isn't anything here you haven't seen before: there's your requisite tragic deaths, betrayals, displays of insanity, etc. that you've seen one hundred times in other war movies. Korea, as a country, seems to love melodramas. Je-gyu Kang here tries just about every trick in the book. The difference between this and your average sappy war movie, however, is that for the most part, it actually works.

Don't go in expecting Apocalypse Now; Taeguki isn't that ambitious. What it does, it generally does well. Dong-kun Jang (Friend), Bin Won (Guns and talks), and Eun-ju Lee (Lover's Concerto) give solid performances as the three leads. The battle sequences are appropriately violent and loud, shot through cinematography resembling that of Saving Private Ryan, meaning, there's a whole lot of shaky stuff. However, the best moments of the film have nothing to do with camera angles, music, or anything technical whatsoever, for example: the look on the mother's face as she watches her two sons leave, a sense of dread as a prison goes up in flames, and a particularly stunning finale that I won't spoil here.

Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Is it the best movie ever made? No, but that didn't really matter to me. Korean films have so far been the most successful of any particular country in painting characters that I can identify with, and Taeguki continues that trend, which is probably its greatest strength as a film. The overall theme of brotherhood is particularly well developed, and the relationship between the two brothers, is perhaps the most memorable aspect of the film. Sure, it's nothing new, but I still loved it anyway. Still, I'm sure some of you will think it's a little cheesy, overdone, and unnecessary. And that's fine with me. 

Keep your expectations in check; don't see this right after Old Boy, and you should be okay. In fact, you might want to catch this right after Jackie Chan's Around the World in 80 Days. It might just seem like the best movie ever.