Archive for March 24th, 2012

The Front Line (2011)

Towards the end of the Korean War, a South Korean battalion is fiercely battling over a hill on the front line border against the North in order to capture a strategic point (Aerok Hill) that would determine the new border between two nations. The ownership of this small patch of land swap numerous times over the course of the war. 1st Lieutenant Kang is dispatched to the front line to join a unit nicknamed Alligator Company by the Americans in order to investigate the rumours that a mole is passing information to the North and that their former captain has been killed in suspicious circumstances. But he gets spiraled into the war that’s more terrifying than death itself when he meets his friend Kim, who has transformed from a meek person into a war machine, along with his unit. As the countdown for ceasefire begins, both sides become more vicious, resulting in deaths of countless lives until the last man can claim the hill.

Unlike the epic war movie Brotherhood of War, The Front Line takes a different approach – concentrating instead on the futility of war itself. It’s not about heroics but about survival so we don’t get to see any war heroes but men deeply scarred by the conflict who just want to go home to their families. Used as pawns by their superiors in a back and forth battle for a useless piece of land which sees countless die. The movie doesn’t start out as a straight forward war movie though but as a mystery as we follow Kang in his mission by his superiors to track down a mole and a potential traitor in Alligator Company. Director Jang Hoon gives us a viewpoint from both sides in the war – one ingenious plot device is by the way of a drop box hidden inside a bunker in which the soldiers exchange letters and alcohol.

The characters (which most viewers will be familar with already from similar war movies) we encounter are all sympathetic to the viewer, showing their hopes and fears, questioning why they are fighting. As we near the end we see their joy as the armistice has been signed signalling the end of the war but that joy is shortlived when they are told the ceasefire will not take place until 12 hours later and their superiors demand one last battle out of them to capture Aerok Hill. You sort of sense that some of the characters will not survive this final skirmish. The battle scenes are spectacular and explosive putting us right in the thick of the action, showing the immense effort that Alligator Company have to give in order to capture Aerok Hill with the North soldiers dug in bunkers and mowing down the soldiers of the South with their machine guns. The sub-plot with the company coming under fire regularly from a female North sniper they nickname ‘Two Seconds’ was really good.

The Front Line suffers a bit with it’s long running time. Take away around 30 mins and the movie might have been better. The downtime between the battles I thought at times were fairly dull and padded out. Thankfully unlike other war movies there isn’t any melodrama here. The only real criticism I can give is there was just too much talking and not enough action for my liking. The cast give a really good account of themselves in their roles. Whilst I admire the director for trying to give us something a little bit different, I still rate Brotherhood of War as the ultimate Korean war movie I’ve seen.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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