Saturday, December 31, 2005

Taegukgi

I was having a drink with friends when the discussion moved to war movies. Why is that when people mention war movies, the discussion almost always gravitates to "Saving Private Ryan?" Ok so it is a well-made film, and granted that the first 30 minutes are indeed a harrowing and riveting experience, but after the Normandy beach sequence the movie doesn't seem to make sense.

Take the reason why the character of Tom Hanks decided to stay and sacrifice his entire platoon for Pvt. Ryan. Why was it a choice between leaving him behind or staying behind? Why not instead haul that spoiled brat home?

And what was that flashback scene anyway? How can the story be told from the point-of-view of Ryan? He wasn't even at the Normandy beach!

Take away those two plot points and the movie falls flat. And I don't care if it was a Spielberg film. Sometimes I feel that I am being manipulated and led astray when senseless scenes are placed simply to tug on emotional heartstrings.

Now I contrast this with a little-known but nonetheless critically-acclaimed South Korean film titled "Taegukgi." The movie is about two brothers who are dragged into the Korean War, told (in a more coherent manner) through the point-of-view of the younger sibling. The relationship of the two brothers is what drives the story forward. There is however no less action. If you take "Ryan's" Normandy scene , create maybe 4 or 5 such scenes, and spread them throughout a 2 1/2 hour movie, and you have a sense of what "Taegukgi" is. "Ryan" shows that war is an affront against man's unmeasureable value (one entire platoon sacrificed for one man---which I still find stupid because they could have dragged his stupid ass home). "Taegukgi" simply shows that war is inhumane, barbaric, and senseless. War causes relationships to falter. Morals are compromised. Friendships are forgotten. And there is bloodshed galore. Torn limbs. Bloodied stumps. Dark gushing blood. And up close in-your-face battles.

I was pleasant surprised with this film. It is a further testament of the quality of Korean cinema (look for another memorable if not shocking film called "Oldboy" if you are not convinced).

2 Comments:

Anonymous Marc said...

That Korean war flick kicks ass. For an airsoft and war junkie like me, the battle scenes are scaringly close to Spielberg's.

I particularly like the scene where a shell shocked korean starts blowing his comrades away inside their base. Intense!

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there buwayahman. First i like to say that i enjoy reading both this blog and your other blog.You are indeed helping by informing and you write well. Keep up the great writing man.

About this post on these movies, i am looking around for taegukgi and im quite eager to watch it, being a military history buff i like watching even fictionalised but realistic depictions of human conflict. I believe that for all of us to really appreciate peace, we have to be intimately familiar about war and it's realities..
That said, about "saving private ryan.": You are right, the flashback scene is indefensible.Why steven spielberg did not seem to notice or care about the impossibility of this scene is indeed a flaw in an otherwise near perfect war movie(my opinion).
About the captain(tom hanks) "sacrificing" his men for the "spoiled brat" ryan: i beg to disagree with your take on the scenerio. Having read alot of biographys and non-fiction accounts of soldiers in battle, and talking to real soldiers during my ROTC days, one begins to understand their way of thinking.Granted it may seem strange for most of us, but for them,certain things that we civilians take tend pay lip service to; standing by your buddies no matter what for example, is considered sacrosanct.

This is the case in SPV- ryan:having heard that all his real brothers have been killed, tells the captain(hanks)that he cannot abandon the others in his unit since qoute "they'r the only brothers i have left.." end qoute.

The captain(hanks) understands this,(although some of hanks men dont)and decides to "risk" his men to help ryan and his unit survive.(ryan and his unit's mission is to hold the bridge til the main army arrives)Notice i used the word risked. In almost all instances(except the kamikaze)soldiers will tell you that they will willingly "risk" their lives for the mission,not "sacrifice" it. The distinction is important, since "risk" implies more of a gamble..Which is what the captain(hanks)clearly takes when he decides to stay and help ryan accomplish their mission. And the gamble succeeds(the main army arrives before the germans can retake the bridge)and ryan survives but at a terrible price..

The movie(SVP)clearly shows one of war's toughest aspects, that doing the right thing, in this case ryan's decision not to abandon his comrades in the mission and Captain Smith's (?)hank's decision to help ryan survive, often result in one paying the ultimate price..

That, in a essence shows why war while making a mockery of the human spirit, also provides us a glimpse, a frame so to speak, of the human spirit's greatest qualities.

Pacensya for my long comment, medyo na carried away.:)

Anyway, great blog. late ko lang nakita. More power to you dude!

-JOJO

6:16 AM  

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