Saturday, September 9, 2017

Battleship Island Movie Review: Uneven War Movie With An Impressively Staged Climax Showing Escape Of Korean Prisoners From Their Japanese Captors

WE THOUGHT Korean stars have countless followers locally, but how come “Battleship Island” didn’t have that many viewers when we watched it? We watched it on its first day of showing at Trinoma and the next day, it was already on a sliding arrangement with another movie.
The film is said to be based on true events when Korea was still a colony under the Japanese empire during World War II. A big budget war movie filled with patriotic sentiments, it is set on a Japanese island called Nishima on the coast of Nagasaki, which is shaped like a battleship and perfect for coal mining.

The mine is operated through Koreans who are forced to do hard labor for their Japanese tormentors. We are introduced to the latest group of recruits-slaves compelled to serve in the island, led by Lee Gang Ok (Hwang Jung Min, who we’ve seen before in the drama “Ode to My Father” and in that overrated horror flick, “The Wailing”), a jazz musician who’s accompanied by his band members and his talented tap-dancing little daughter Sohee (Kim Soo Ahn, the daughter of lead actor Gong Yu who survived the zombie attack in “Train to Busan”.)

Also in this group is a Seoul mobster, Choi Chil Sung (So Ji Sub); a student, Oh Jang Woo (Jang Sung Bum) and a comfort woman, Mal Nyon (Lee Kung Hyun). A special undercover operative, Park Moo Young (Song Joong Ki, who’s supposed to be a very popular actor in Korea today after “Descdendants of the Sun”), is also sent by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) to rescue Korean Liberation Army leader Yoon Hak Chui (Lee Kyoung Young).

All previous escape attempts made by oppressed Koreans from this labor camp of an island have been unsuccessful, but this time, watch out for the bombastic climactic finale that is well choreographed and effectively staged.

Writer-director Ryoo Seung Wan manages to paint the life of the miners in Nishima as a veritable hell on earth, with its grimy and sweaty conditions where Koreans are routinely punished and humiliated by their Japanese captors who come out as caricatures of evil in their cruelty and villainy.
We know we may sound racist but, with the large cast almost always covered in coal dust and soot and living in subhuman conditions, a non-Korean might have trouble recognizing them and they start to all look alike. The father and daughter act of Gang-ok and Kim Soo Ahn have the biggest exposures here, along with Song Joong Ki who’s the serious hero in the movie: invincible, very noble and can do no wrong.

But the roles of So Ji Sub and Lee Jung Hyun seem to have been truncated or edited out as they somewhat vanish in the middle then paired anew near the end. There are many stretches that really drag, particularly in the middle portion when the movie bogs down and becomes quite messy because of so many characters, but it perks up again once the great escape starts after the Koreans learn that the Japs are planning to blow up the whole island to cover up the truth about their horrifying treatment of their Korean slaves in its coal mines.

The bloody confrontation between the Koreans and the Japanese after an Allied bombing of the island is filled with the suspense and thrills reminiscent of old school action movie finales, complete with pyrotechnics. It’s impressibly staged with the Koreans required to climb up and cross a long metal scaffolding to get on a waiting ship that will take them to safety, with the camera expertly and continuously moving through vast crowded settings.

Just ready up yourself for some gratuitous violence (and some melodrama, too) in the big D-Day prison yard style escape showing helpless extras being mowed down. It’s visually striking but it might leave you a bit queasy if you’re the squeamish type.

0 comments:

Post a Comment