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Archive for the ‘Korean’ Category

My Way (2011)

My Way poster

During the Japanese occupation of Korea, young Jin Suk and his family begin working for a Japanese farmer. The farmer has a son the same age as Jin Suk by the name of Tatsuo. The two boys share a love of marathon running and soon become bitter rivals as they grow up which culminates in Jin Suk being wrongly disqualified from a qualifying race to appear at the Tokyo Olympics after he has won. Tatsuo is named the winner instead. This act of injustice angers the Korean crowd who start a riot which is quelled by the Japanese soldiers. Jun Sik and the men of the riot are imprisoned and then conscripted into the Japanese army at the start of WWII to fight the Russians. He finds out that the man in charge of his unit is none other than Tatsuo. When the Soviet army attack his unit, he and Tatsuo are captured by them. On arriving at a labour camp, Jun Sik finds an old friend is in charge of them but he finds that his friend has changed for the worse when he betrays a fellow Korean who is then shot. Jun Sik and Tatsuo manage to escape from the Russians but find themselves drafted into the German army just as the Normandy landings are about to take place.

This excellent Korean movie can quite rightly stand alongside many Hollywood blockbusters such is the epic sweeping scope about it. It was all done on a modest $26 million budget – proof that you don’t need to waste over $100 million dollars like Hollywood to make a good movie. I think it was the biggest amount of money ever spent on a Korean movie. It’s directed by Je-Kyu Kang who knows about making good war movies as he was the man who also helmed Taegukgi – Brotherhood Of War (if you like your war movies definitely do not miss this movie). The premise about two Asian men fighting the Allies during D-Day might sound far-fetched on paper until you discover that the movie is actually loosely based on a true story about a Korean man, Yang Kyoungjong, who was forced to fight for the Japanese, Soviet and German army. He was captured in Normandy after the US Army overran the German defences. I loved the idea of a Korean and a Japanese man having their fates tied together from the time they were kids right into adulthood and how their relationship changes over the years from being rivals in marathon running to comrades in arms hoping that they’ll find a way back home.

The blend of war scenes with that of the rivalry between the 2 main characters is perfect. The running time motors along at a brisk pace and before you know it you’re at the breathtaking climax. Even though the movie is over two hours long, it is always interesting and never boring with plenty of incidents taking place although I did find it sometimes ridiculous how things panned out for the two foreigners. Take this scenario in the final third of the movie as Jun Sik and Tatsuo have planned to sneak off the front line in Normandy to catch a boat to go home but just as they’re about to make their escape the Allies start bombarding the Normandy coastline and storm the beaches. The two soldiers are forced to man the heavy guns to repel the American invaders off the beach. There’s a great twist right near the end which I won’t spoil for you and it is quite unexpected.

my way screenshot

The battle scenes in the movie of which there are 3 are well executed, realistic, brutal and intense. One of them has the Soviets attacking the Japanese army by tanks. The Japanese soldiers (some of which are Korean prisoners) with Tatsuo as their commander have been ordered to go on a suicide mission to destroy the tanks. The Normandy beach landings is also exhilarating to watch. It’s as good if not better than Saving Private Ryan with the camera taking you right into the heart of the action. The battle scenes does not shirk from showing the horrors of war. The cinematography is fantastic taking us from the Far East, snowy Siberia and finally to the shores of Northern France. It is spectacular and stunning. The filmmakers couldn’t have picked two better actors to play the two main characters in Dong-gun Jang and Joe Odagiri. They’re the biggest assets this movie has and their performances are faultless. In Joe Odagiri as Tatsuo we see his character begin the movie as an arrogant nasty person who changes over the years into being someone the viewer can warm to.

As this is mostly a testosterone movie, the only female with a small role as a Chinese sniper is Fan BingBing. It’s such a shame she’s not in the movie for long as I liked her character. The only gripe about this movie is it skipped certain things such as how the two men joined the German army. The viewer sees the pair escape from the Russians into the snowy wilderness and the next thing we see is Tatsuo as a German soldier. I would have liked to have seen the circumstances of how the pair became German soldiers.

Overall, My Way is a movie that has it all from superb battle scenes, well developed characters and an incredible story spanning the whole of WWII. It is not to be missed. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Monster (2014)

Monster-Movie

Lowlife Ik-Sang is hired by his uncle to retrieve a mobile phone which contains evidence of him assaulting a woman. She has threatened to blackmail him for money. If he was prosecuted by the police it would stop his demolition schemes from taking place. Ik-Sang hires his adopted brother Tae-soo to carry out the job. Tae-soo is a cold and ruthless assassin who promptly murders the woman in her apartment but fails to find the mobile phone. The woman’s 10 year old sister Na-ri who has seen everything escapes from the apartment with Tae-soo in hot pursuit. Na-ri comes across Book-soon who runs her grandmother’s vegetable stand in the street. Book-soon has a reputation for being a bit of a local nutcase where she lives with her cleverer younger sister Eun-jung out in the country. Book-soon takes in the scared Na-ri. During a walk in the nearby woods, Eun-jung who is with Na-ri is murdered by Tae-soo. When Book-soon finds her sister has been murdered, it puts her on a collision course with Tae-soo. She’s not the only one who wants to settle things with Tae-soo. Ik-sang dispatches a number of thugs to kill Tae-soo. Will Tae-soo catch up with Na-ri and Book-soon and kill them both or will Ik-sang’s thugs get to Tae-soo first?

This is a great Korean serial killer thriller which is slightly odd in that in between the nasty brutal murders and bloodshed that takes place there is also some dark humour. Personally I thought the humour looked out of place within the context of the plot and it should have been left out altogether. Perhaps the Korean viewing public likes this type of genre mashing but it didn’t sit too well with myself.

The plot of this fast paced movie is pretty straight forward in that it pits a cold and ruthless killer against a grieving family member who is out for revenge but also wants to protect a terrified little girl from being murdered as well. The viewer gets some background on how the young Tae-soo began his descent into darkness after witnessing his violent father beating up his older brother as he hid in the attic. He makes a deal with his brother that if he kills his father Ik-sang will play with him. When their axe wielding father is killed by Tae-soo whilst trying to attack Ik-sang again, a monster is born. There’s a scene at a bar which shows how emotionless and efficient the adult Tae-soo is as a killer when a noisy patron bothers Ik-sang. Tae-soo without any prompting from his brother kills the person. As the viewer learns later on in the movie Ik-sang and even his adopted mother doesn’t really want anything to do with Tae-soo. He may be useful in helping Ik-sang out at times but he wants him out of the way permanently because he is basically scared shitless of what he is. On the other hand Book-soon might not be a murderer as Tae-soo but she does has some issues with her temper. Dropped on her head by her mother when she was a child, the viewer soon discovers that she’s one card short of a full deck and flies off into a rage at times. Her tag of being called a “psycho bitch” by the neighbours is justified! Get these two to confront each other and you have a death match made in hell!!

Monster 2014 screenshot

After numerous chases which are really tense involving Book-soon and Na-ri with Ik-sang planning Tae-soo’s death, the climax of the movie has all parties concerned converging on Tae-soo’s mothers’ restaurant in Seoul in which Ik-sang has prepared a surprise for his brother but he’s not as stupid as they think he is. At the same time Book-soon also arrives there to rescue Na-ri. It culminates in a messy and blood splattered finale. Those who have a hard time with bloody scenes may have to turn their heads away from the screen such is the amount of gore that’s involved.

Lee Min-ki plays the role of the icy killer Tae-soo extremely well. The handsome character seems to enjoy his killings and likes his red wine. He does look rather cool. Tae-soo does have to get physical a couple of times in the movie resulting in some tough bone-breaking quick fights and not all of these scraps are easy for him to overcome either. Kim Go-Eun takes on the role of Book-soon in quite a manic performance which sees her screaming and crying a lot. It’s a bit off-putting to say the least and I’m sure other viewers will perhaps get annoyed of Book-soon as well. The only likeable character the viewer comes across is that of the little girl Na-ri. She’s played by the adorable and cute Ahn Seo-hyun. You do begin to care for her and hope she comes through this traumatic experience unscathed. I hope to see more of this promising young actress in the future.

Monster is a movie I found to be entertaining despite the strange bouts of humour and the strong bloodletting. It’s got a good storyline and great performances from the cast. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes though especially with the violence inflicted on women which runs throughout the movie and is rather unpleasant. Still worth taking a look if you enjoy your Asian revenge thrillers.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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The Flu (2013)

The Flu movie poster

A container which is full of Hong Kong illegal immigrants arrive at a port in South Korea. When the smugglers open the container the people inside are all dead except for one survivor who flees from the scene. The man is infected with a deadly variant of the bird flu virus and soon the virus starts spreading all over the city of Bondang, a rich suburb of Seoul.  As thousands become infected with the disease, the government orders the army to lock down the city in order to contain the virus. Extreme measures are put into place which angers the citizens of the city. Anarchy and chaos soon takes over. Dr Kim In Hae is a part of the scientific taskforce charged with trying to find a cure but first they must find the survivor and hope his blood contain antibodies.

This is a cracking South Korean apocalyptic blockbuster disaster/thriller. It shows the terrifying consequences of what happens when a variant of the bird flu virus is released and it spreads like wildfire amongst the population. There is no cure and the fatality rate is 100% within 36 hours. The plot contains a lot of edge-of-your-seat drama and it has a good pace about it. It’s true that comparisons to Outbreak and Contagion will happen but I thought that this movie was much better and more enjoyable than either one. The story concentrates on 3 individuals – a rescue worker, a female doctor and her cute young daughter. The rescue worker falls for the female doctor after saving her from a car accident. The female doctor has a personal reason than most to find a cure for the flu as her daughter has been infected. What the movie also does well is show how the government tries to contain the epidemic with many difficult decisions having to be made. You can feel their helplessness as the disease threatens to get completely out of control and perhaps engulf the world. The sense of magnitude of what is taking place is shown in all of it’s gory detail with dead bodies scattered around and sick people coughing up vast amounts of blood. There’s a horrifying scene as the viewer is shown the eventual fate of anybody who’s got the flu virus. They are to be thrown into a mass grave where they’ll be incinerated by flame throwing military personnel. Ji-Goo bravely rescues Mi-reu before she’s about to be torched. There’s a bit of a sly dig at South Korea’s ally in the US as the villainous advisor to the Korean Government who orders a missile strike at the climax to wipe out Bondang by fighter jets is American.

The Flu screenshot

The emotional side to the story is mostly carried by the young daughter Mi-reu who is separated from her mother and she finds a friend in the noble hero Ji-Goo who becomes sort of like a surrogate father to her. The rapport between the two characters is touching. I’m sure there’ll be some tears from some viewers during the climax when Mi-reu reunites with her mother in a zone where anybody crossing from the quarantine district into the non-infected area is shot on sight if they go over an orange line. There is more than a fair share of melodrama introduced during the second half as Asian fans are known to like this sort of thing in their movies. It’s not all doom and gloom in the story as the comedy relief is provided by Ji-Goo’s co-worker.

Soo-ae and Hyuk Jang give convincing performances in their roles but it’s the plucky little actress Min-ah Park that stands out. She is incredible as Kim Mi-reu. She’s definitely one of the best child actresses I’ve seen. I may not be a parent myself but I so wanted to protect that little girl from all the horrors she was exposed to during the movie. You start to care for the 3 main leads as to what will happen to them.

This is a fantastic disaster movie which joins numerous others that Korea has produced over the last couple of years. It’s well written with just the right amount of tension and suspense, it has a terrific pace about it and has superb acting from all the cast. This is a great comeback movie from director Kim Sung-su whose last movie came out 10 years ago. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Oasis (2002)

Oasis movie dvd

Jong –du Hong is a man that could be tagged as a simpleton. He’s released from jail for killing a man in a car accident and his family are none too happy that he’s going to be a burden on their lives again. He decides that he wants to say sorry to the dead man’s family even though he has been forbidden from contacting them. Turning up at the family’s apartment, they are furious at him and send him packing but before leaving he sees someone there that pricks his interest. Gong-Ju Han is the family’s disabled member who has serious cerebal palsy. He sees the family leaving her alone at the apartment for most of the day before they come back in the evening. He also watches where they hide the key to the place in the flower vase outside. One day after the family has left, he grabs the key and goes inside.  Although surprised by Jong-du’s intrusion in her apartment, Gong-Ju Han develops a friendship which turns to romance with him. Their happy relationship though is destroyed when Gong-Ju’s family come back early one night and finds the pair of them having sex…….

This is an outstanding romance story with a difference, one that breaks down boundaries and makes for uncomfortable viewing at times but you have to admire director Chang-dong Lee for having the balls to put together a brutally honest story about two outcasts of society who find solace in each other. It’s a thought provoking piece of Korean cinema about how love comes in all shapes and forms and is not just between physically abled people. It can also be seen as a social commentary on how disabled people are viewed by society.

oasis screenshot

The pair are badly treated and ostracised by their respective families. Jong-du gets nothing but contempt whilst Gong-Ju is more or less abandoned by her family.  Even though Jong-du is a man that doesn’t know right from wrong and has a mental illness, he is the only person that treats Gong-Ju Han as a normal human being despite her disabilities. He can look beyond her physical handicap and give her the respect and closeness she desperately needs. The discrimination that the pair endure from society is shocking – none more so than a scene in a restaurant in which the pair are asked kindly to leave. This prejudice culminates in a big misunderstanding when the pair are caught ‘at it’ in Gong-Ju’s bed by her next-door neighbour and her family who think Jong –du is raping her. The viewer knows this isn’t so but as Gong-Ju cannot communicate properly with them it’s an open and shut case for all involved including the police. They cannot comprehend that their love is quite innocent. In their eyes it is sick and twisted. Their blinkered views will make you angry.

The poignant performance of the two leads is nothing short of brilliant. Kyung-gu Sol and So-ri Moon carry the entire movie and deserve nothing but praise for portraying two difficult characters. So-ri Moon’s acting in particular is exceptional. I really did think she was a real disabled actress with cerebal palsy until the viewer is shown a dream-like sequence showing what Gong-Ju would be doing if she wasn’t disabled. The way So-ri Moon is able to show Gong-Ju’s emotions through her facial spasms is nothing short of amazing.

This is yet another excellent Korean movie I’ve seen recently that has blown me away. It’s a classic movie with a compelling storyline and is unlike any romance you’ve seen before.  The movie might make some people feel uneasy (and believe me there are certain scenes which are disturbing) but if you’re a true movie fan this is something you should see and experience. The story will leave an impression in your heart and mind long after the end credits has finished. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Failan (2001)

failanposter

Kang-Jae is a lowly member of a gangster organisation who has seen his best days gone by. He and the boss of the organisation who is Kang’s best friend built up the company but has seen his status change over the years. He is seen as a washed out member of the gang by his young peers. One night Kang’s boss murders a person in a parking lot and rather than going to prison, Kang volunteers to go to jail instead as a favour for his boss. Some months previously, a young woman from China named Failan comes to Korea after the death of her parents to look for work. Her aunt whom she was supposed to be staying with has moved away to Canada. However, because she has no family there now, it will be difficult for her to get a working visa……although there is one way of getting around this. She would have to get married. Kang-Jae who is after some money agrees to marry Failan without having seen her properly apart from a quick glimpse. Failan is sent to work to a small coastal village as a laundry assistant where despite the language barriers at first she is seen to be a valuable worker to her boss. Fast forward to the present day and just as Kang-Jae is about to turn himself in to the police, they come knocking on his door to tell him that Failan has died. In order to go through all the paperwork following her death, Kang has to go on a trip to where she lived and worked. After being handed some letters that Failan had written to him, Kang learns more about her and realises just how grateful she was to him for marrying her. Even though Kang never met his late wife, he begins to develop some feelings for her………

There may be some of you out there that really like romantic dramas and seen plenty of them in your time but I guarantee you won’t have seen an original romantic drama such as this one in which the 2 leading roles share a love for one another but never meet or even speak to each other. All the usual clichés you’d expect in a drama such as this is thrown out of the window to create a unique heartbreaking story which will make a lot of viewers cry. It’s hard for anybody not to be moved by the end credits. It’s a romantic tragedy about two lost souls which really hits you hard in a way that can’t be easily shaken off but I should tell you that it’s not a tearjerker in a normal traditional way.

Failan screenshot

The story is told in a series of flashbacks relating to Failan’s life in Korea and Kang-Jae’s journey to identify her body after her death in the present. The first part of the movie introduces the viewer to Kang-Jae’s seedy world after he’s released from jail for selling porn videos from his shop and the 5 members of the gang he is associated with. Kang-Jae’s life has been in free-fall for some time which is why he’s now just a lowly gangster. He is looked down by fellow gangmembers and even his boss abuses him. He’s what you might call a born loser who thinks by swaggering around acting all tough and being loud that people will respect him. A change occurs in Kang-Jae when he learns of his wife’s death – a person he’d forgotten that he married (he only did it for money after all). He doesn’t seem to care at first but by visiting where she worked, talking to people that knew her and reading the letter she wrote to him, Kang-Jae gets a picture of who Failan was. By learning how she appreciated being given the chance to work in South Korea by Kang-Jae, we see him beginning to develop some feelings for her. His transformation is complete though when a second letter is given to him after Failan’s cremation. It is this letter that finally hits home to him just how much he liked her. But by this time it’s too late and the person he never even met, who gave him the dignity he wanted is dead and he realises the opportunity he’s missed. The term “two ships passing in the night” comes to mind.

If Kang-Jae represents the dark side of life, Failan is the pure and good side. Her shy, quiet and innocent charm will endear you to her and the tragic plight that befalls her will have you in tears. She is probably one of the sweetest female characters you’ll ever see in an Asian movie. It is shown early on that Failan is quite ill but it isn’t explained until much later on in the movie just how seriously ill she is. Her experiences as she tries to fit into her new surroundings with only a very basic grasp of the Korean language will captivate and make you care for her. Failan has no comprehension what kind of a man Kang-Jae is so based on a small photo she has of him smiling and thinking he was so kind for marrying her she assumes he’s a good man. If only she knew the truth about him! It’s because of her beautiful personality and the undying gratitude to the husband she never met that makes her death even harder for viewers to comprehend. I’m not ashamed to say I had tears in my end right at the end of the movie.

The acting by the leading pair is superb. I’m not going to praise Choi Min-sik again because I’ve done it before from other movies I’ve watched him in but I have to say he really is superb here. He gives a faultless performance in this movie and seeing him break down after reading Failan’s 2nd letter it’s difficult not to become emotional yourself. It is Cecilia Cheung though that will surprise many people. I know she’s a good actress and has starred in many HK productions but this role is probably the best thing she’s done over the years. She shows another side to her acting here. Her portrayal of a sad and lonely young woman trying to find her place in a foreign land is stunning. I was astonished just how good she could be given the right role.

All in all, Failan is a remarkable, touching and extraordinary movie with a wonderful plot and excellent acting from everybody involved. Despite the long running time, this is absolutely necessary to develop things in the plot for the big impact near the climax. Don’t miss out on watching this classic movie. It’s as close to perfection as you’ll ever get. Very highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Castaway on the Moon poster

Seong-geun is ready to kill himself by jumping off a brudge into the Han River. His life has fallen apart – everything has gone wrong. He has lost his job when his company went bankrupt, he has a huge debt and his girlfriend has also left him. He jumps off the bridge but doesn’t die. Waking up, he finds himself on what he thinks is a desert island but in reality he is only a few hundred yards from the bridge he jumped and he can see buildings from across the river. He tries to swim to the other side but he’s not very good at it and has to turn back and even signalling for help to the passing pleasure boats doesn’t help his situation. To make things even worse, his mobile phone battery has died so he can’t call anyone. He is well and truly stuck on an island in the middle of Seoul! He tries to kill himself again but he fails once more. The only thing he can do is try and survive on the island by using whatever resources he can find which is a lot as a ton of rubbish has been washed up. To try and attract attention he writes HELP in the sand, not that he’s confident that anybody will see it. Meanwhile in an apartment, a young woman Jeong-yeon who has locked herself in her room for 3 years and whose hobby is taking photos of the Moon spots Seong-geun’s message on the island using her camera. In her mind she thinks he’s an alien. Wanting to respond to his plea for help, Jeong-yeon ventures out of her apartment in the dead of night to deliver a message in a bottle by throwing it from a bridge.  Seong-geun responds by writing more messages in the sand and Jeong-yeon writes back every time. How long can Seong-geun stay on the island? The answer may not be too long as a typhoon threatens to destroy the shelter and everything Seong-geun has built on the island. Will he also manage to find out the identity of his mysterious messenger?

I’d heard some rave reviews for Castaway On The Moon a couple of years ago but because I had so many other movies to check out first I put watching it on the backburner until now that is. Hands down, this is one of the best Korean movies I’ve ever seen and I can understand why it’s been wowing viewers all over the world. Let’s get one thing straight as I’ve seen many people saying this is some kind of rip-off of Tom Hanks’ Castaway. Yes, there are a couple of similar things between the two movies in that it’s about a man cut off from society on an island but as far as I’m concerned they’re two completely different movies because Tom Hanks’ character is stuck on an island far away from civilisation and you can’t say that about Kim’s situation as he’s just stuck on a small island in the middle of Seoul! I think this movie is far superior to Castaway as well.

This is an original romantic comedy about isolation and loneliness between two people at their lowest ebb and how they connect with each other through the strangest of circumstances. In turn they begin to learn about enjoying life once more. You’ll never be able to look at black bean noodles again without thinking about Seong-geun’s experience on the island and how he manages to change from being a loser to somebody that is able to adapt in his environment and create his own little paradise by using things that regularly washes up on the shore. A discarded pedal duck boat for example is used as his sleeping shelter. Gradually he learns new skills such as ploughing a small patch of land to grow black beans from a discarded seed packet and catching fish from the Han river. Soon enough all thoughts of wanting to be rescued disappear from Seong-geun’s mind. On the island he is King and free from society that pushed him to the edge of despair he is content with himself.

Castaway on the Moon screenshot

Jeong-yeon’s story is equally as brilliant as Seong-geun. Here we have a young woman who in Japanese terms is a ‘hikikomori’ (not sure if there’s a Korean term for people like that?). Everything she needs is supplied by her mother who drops it next to her bedroom door. Why Jeong-yeon has shut herself from the outside world is never explained but it could be something to do with the burn mark that is on one side of her face. Perhaps she didn’t like people staring and commenting about it whenever she went outside. Although I may have seen some Japanese movies with people such as Jeong-yeon changing for the better, I don’t think I’ve seen a more interesting portrayal of a ‘hikikomori’ before. You instantly feel for her and don’t even think for one instance that she’s a weirdo but of a vulnerable person that’s been hurt by the world.

The relationship between Seong-geun and Jeong-yeon is very unique and I liked how they came to rely on one another and overcome their fears and issues but you have to ask yourself why did they communicate in English – maybe Jeong-yeon thinks he’s a foreigner! There is some wonderful comedic moments that take place such as the take-away delivery man who brings some food over to the island to Seong-geun after Jeong-yeon has ordered them for him. The last third brings more drama than comedy to the movie as Seong-geun’s time on the island draws to a close. You sort of hope that both characters will eventually meet up with each other and start a proper relationship as they are so likable but does that happen? You’ll just have to watch this movie won’t you to find out!!

Overall this movie is very funny, charming, full of wit and depth with excellent acting and a perfect script. You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve seen this movie. It’s easily one of the best movies I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Truly amazing. Go see it now. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Antarctic-Journal-dvd

A 6 -man Korean expedition team are trying to reach the ‘Pole Of Inaccessibility’ which is in a remote part of Antarctica. Only one other team (a Russian one) has ever reached the place. The team have a couple of months of daylight to try and reach the location before darkness falls across the land for 6 months. Things start to go wrong from the beginning with various mishaps with communications and bad weather hampering them and the team leader isn’t that stable in his mind. An old tattered black flag is found and hidden close by in the snow is a journal which belonged to a British expedition from 80 years ago. The journal recounts the things that happened to them during their mission and the same events seem to be happening to the Korean team now. As tensions mount between members of the team with some thinking they should turn back, the slightly deranged team leader insists they should plod on to their target. He is so determined to reach the P.O.I he sabotages the only communication link they have with their base camp.  Will the team ever reach what they set out to do or will illness and the hidden dangers in the harsh environment they’re trekking in finish them off?

I thought that this movie was going to be one of these supernatural thrillers in which the story is moved into the wilderness of Antarctica rather than the usual locations we’re used to but it turned out to be more of a psychological horror in the end. There’s plenty of promise during the first 30 mins with some hints given that something unearthly or supernatural may be following the team with even a ghostly hand jutting up from the snow which turns up on videotape but all of this is dropped as the more psychological aspect of the plot comes to the fore . You just know after discovering the journal from the ill-fated 1922 British expedition that the Korean team are doomed to fail as they soon make the same mistakes and then things get worse when two of the members disappear. The first hour of the movie is fairly mundane and just shows the growing tension between the team members as they trudge across the ice and have arguments. Although things improve a little bit in the second half I’m sure if the first hour hasn’t perked the viewer’s interest I think the majority will have switched off and to be honest I wouldn’t blame anybody if they did.

Antarctic Journal

The story focuses mostly on one character – the team leader. A veteran of various expeditions, he is haunted by his son who fell to his death and he is slowly becoming insane. Driven by a need to reach the target destination, he doesn’t seem to care for the wellbeing of his team. It is never explained fully if it’s the visions he is seeing that is making him mad or the reason why he has to complete the mission? Even though you might think that the team leader is the villain of the movie, the truth is there’s nobody amongst the characters you can sympathise with so you don’t really care for anybody’s fate by the end. It doesn’t help that there’s hardly any character development taking place and that some red herrings are put in the movie but if you don’t try and explain even just a tiny bit of what’s going on it’ll just confuse the viewer and that’s what it did with me anyway. The source of the leader’s insanity should have been explored more. Was there a supernatural explanation as to why all of the team suffered mental breakdowns – again the viewer never knows.

The cinematography though is fantastic and is the highlight of the entire movie. New Zealand doubles up as the Antarctic and the snowy landscape is captured very well by the director. It shows the viewer that it really is a harsh place to be stuck in and that it takes no prisoners. There’s also a nice soundtrack accompanying the movie too. As this isn’t an out and out horror movie there’s no gore at all apart from one scene that is. One of the team members foot is shown to be suffering badly from frostbite and the leader decides to saw part of the man’s leg off. It is quite a gruesome part of the movie and it doesn’t shirk in showing the aftermath of the amputation. The movie unfortunately also goes on for far too long. Just shy of two hours, a good 30 mins should have been cut which would have improved the pacing a little bit as well.

In the end, it was a decent try by the director to create something different from your usual Asian horrors and with more work on the script it could have been better but in the end I was frustrated more than anything else by the story. Just average for me.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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