Wednesday, 5 September 2012

FILM REVIEW - 71: Into the Fire (2010)

[On UnitedKpop too - read it here]

I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of Warfare and History in general are seriously lacking. It has never been something that has interested me, which I know is terrible because our history has led us to where we are today and millions of people have fought in wars for the freedom that I currently take for granted.
Even so, you would probably have to tie me down and tape my eyes open for me to sit through a film about a true war story.

Why on earth was I watching this film then?
That question can be simply answered with three letters - T.O.P!
I know, it's so shameful. Not only do I lack knowledge in very important things, but I am also a shameful fangirl!

Okay, putting the fact that I am a huge fan of T.O.P aside - I was genuinely curious about his acting ability. I have heard so many good things about it, but I have never really been able to believe it.
When you watch him on programmes, you can only see a seemingly very shy and awkward man. He seems like someone who is very sweet and enjoys what he does for a career, but ultimately prefers not to be the main focus of anything...ever.

So...this guy being a great actor? Hmm.
I simply put it down to VIPs or T.O.P fangirls gushing over their favourite idol.
You get the impression that a celebrity could murder someone in cold blood and admit to it, but still have fans on their side.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see things for myself.

During the Korean War, the North and South sides engaged in a bloody fight with one another. The North were strong and organised, slowly taking hold of provinces in the South one-by-one.
The dictator of the North believed that Korea should be one whole country under his power and would do all he could to get his way.

South Korean forces became dangerously depleted and the situation became so desperate that the only option was to recruit any and all able-bodied men to fight, regardless of their severe lack of training or experience.

This film is based on the true story of a group of 71 student soldiers and their efforts to defend Pohang-dong Girls' Middle School from the advancing North Korean forces. The inexperienced soldiers managed to keep the opposing forces at bay for 11 hours on August 11th 1950. However, all those student soldiers lost their lives on that day.

The film introduces the character Oh Jung Bum (Choi Seung Hyun/T.O.P) - a young man that has fought briefly in the war and survived only by the skin of his teeth thus far. He is an incredibly quiet and timid person that is still reeling from his experiences on the battlefield and grieving for a friend that may not have died had he only been a more competent fighter.

Jung Bum is thrust into a role as leader of the 70 student soldiers due to the fact that he is the most experienced of all stationed at the middle-school.

He is introduced to a group of cocky and aggressive delinquents, apparently led by the arrogant Ku Kap Jo (Kwon Sang Woo)  and they all seem to be unwilling to obey anyone's orders.

Jung Bum is in for an even tougher time than he had previously expected.

  • It certainly pleased me to find that the film focused more on the emotional side brought on by warfare rather than the technical and strategic sides. This obviously meant that my lack of knowledge on the subject was not a hindrance to my enjoyment. I think that this was a better stance for the filmmakers to take in their aim to highlight the heroism and amazing bravery of the 71 soldiers. I really think they showed how honorable these men were for fighting for their country.
  • The acting in this film is incredible. The actors really submerged themselves into their roles and communicated complicated mix of emotions that the young men would have probably felt. It really pushes viewers to question the legitimacy of war in general and I think that is because you are made to see the vulnerable, human side of it all.
  • The film had allegedly had a very high budget and production value and I think you can see this in the general detail that the film shows, let alone the countless explosions, building damage that occurs during the battle scenes and huge number of extras employed to make up the soldiers from each side. I think all this was important for doing the scenes real justice.
  • I love that the film didn't waste any time before showing you some action and, even when there is no fighting, I didn't ever feel that the narrative was progressing too slowly. Each minute of film was used well.
  • There were some amazing, cinematic shots of the opposing sides charging towards each other and I was really in awe of the massive scale of the entire production. The camera work was great in showing this.
  • There was no love-story involved. The only woman in the protagonist's mind was his mother and I feel this helped make the plot more realistic. I think that romance would have distracted viewers too from the true message the film was aiming to communicate.

  • Some parts of the plot were very predictable. The roles of the delinquents were so stereotypical that it was almost painful. It did not take away anything from the general story and it was still tolerable, but some people may have liked some more complex characters to work with.
  • There were 71 soldiers, but the screen time was incredibly unfairly distributed. Of course, you can be expected to present every single soldier properly in the space of a 2 hour film, but you only really got to know a few of the individuals well enough to really feel empathy for them. Many of the others were almost like stock-characters.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this film and I really enjoyed it. I originally thought that I was hearing biased BIGBANG fans' opinions on the film, but I can now see where these people were coming from.
Despite being an idol, T.O.P really did show his talent in this film, along with every other actor that worked on the large-scale production.

The film shows the immense sadness and tragedy of the event. It hooks you in emotionally and illustrates how very brave and courageous these men were. It makes you wonder what they would think of it if they saw it.

There was some beauty in the comradeship that the conflict brought out of the soldiers and some heart-wrenching sadness in the fact that these men were so very young and so very inexperienced in what they were doing. Viewers will likely experience an array of emotions before the credits roll.

I would recommend this film to anyone that is looking for a great mix of drama and action.
Even if, like me, you never usually touch war films with a 50ft pole, I honestly would push you to give this one a try.

It is a film that tells of a truly sad event, but it warms the heart all the same.

[Image Source: Google Images]

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