Originally called Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal (`Arrow the Ultimate Weapon') we start this film by seeing a young Nam-Yi seeing his home being attacked as his father has been branded a traitor, as such a claim means that the whole family must die, he orders Nam-Yi to take flight with his young sister Ja-In being chased by some slavering dogs and slavering lackeys to the King. The plot then jumps on thirteen years to 1636. Nam-Yi is now being played by Hae-Il Park - (`Memories of Murder' and `The Host'). His sister has fallen in love with their adopted new family's son and they want to marry, and he is none too pleased as the match is unfitting, so he gets drunk and starts a bar brawl.
The wedding goes ahead any way, but just as Ja-In is about to tie the knot a strange rumbling is heard. This heralds the second Manchurian (Qing Dynasty of China)invasion of Korea and they are there for plunder, pillage, and slaves, so not at all welcome wedding guests. Nam-Yi has been trying to emulate his father's skills as a bow man and when he encounters the enemy he lets fly. The Chinese are both impressed and threatened by him and set out to get him at all costs. He meanwhile is following the slave caravan to attempt a rescue. What follows is a full on action film with excellent camera work and a high degree of authenticity in both the sets and the quite stunning period costume and detail.
Also there is an attempt to paint both sides with some honour, so the Chinese are portrayed as a nasty bunch but with some saving graces, though not many. This is loosely based on history but with a lot of poetic licence, but this is a film and not a history lesson. There is some dodgy CGI but to say where would be a plot spoiler and this has been slightly cut to remove perceived animal cruelty of a horse.
Director Han-Min Kim has made a film that compliments the ever growing catalogue of excellent films that have come from South Korea. If you have a liking of historical, costume, war based drama then you will probably want to see this, it is just over two hours long, but virtually all of that is used wisely, no nasty bed room antics but plenty of good old fashioned action. As mentioned there are some flaws but not enough to lose a star hence the rating, in Korean and Chinese with English sub titles- recommended.