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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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An extensive, exhaustive (and almost exhausting to watch) war drama, every bit as good as any recent American historical military movie. The Front Line blends a compelling story of personal friendship, tainted by the cruelty and necessities of war, and an overview of the last months of the Korean War before the truce was signed. It's a sweeping bombshell of a production - dramatically dragging the viewer into the visceral misery of continual combat.

It's also probably true that every single aspect of this film has been covered before: the solo, stalking sniper; the incompetent officers sending troops to inevitable obliteration; the fragile camaraderie which can exist between opponents; the utter futility of civil war, of any war... all this has been seen before. But it's carefully crafted in this presentation and incorporates some stunningly powerful performances from key members of the cast, giving all the old messages additional gravitas. For me, it's matter-of-fact brutality easily beats the over-serious sentimentality of most US-made war movies.

Subtitled in English, spoken in Korean. Gruelling, violent and emotionally affecting at times.
8/10
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Yes another Korean War film about, yes, the Korean War and why not because they do make them so well. This one is about the last battle or properly battles that took place in the dyeing embers of that sad conflict (that is still officially not ended). All hills were strategic and Aerok Hill is one such command and has been taken and lost at least thirty times by Alligator Company of the South Korean Army.

Then their captain winds up dead and it is found that he has been killed by a South Korean bullet, yet he was reported K.I.A (killed in action), so a keen young Lieutenant of the Defence Security Command Kang Eun-Pyo is sent to the Front Line to investigate. On his arrival he finds the place in disarray and the man who has been in leading the men is an old friend Kim Soo-Hyeok (also supposedly K.I.A.) There is also a replacement Commander who from his corpulent appearance, has not spent much of the war on `exercises' unless that was to the kebab shop.

Kang Eun-Pyo starts investigating and starts to uncover small things but is generally met with a wall of silence. At the same time the truce negotiations rumble on but hostilities are not allowed to end - rather like World War I. So the killing continues and boy do we get a lot of that. Not only in battle but in the caves and the activities of some very cruel snipers. Korean films have garnered a reputation for making excellent war films, `Brotherhood', '71, Into The Fire' and `Assembly' and this is another to add to that list of quality if emotional films.

The action is frequent and top notch, it can be fairly bloody too and sometime quite personal. There is as ever a plethora of characters, with the seventeen year old green recruit to the gnarled veteran from the War of Liberation of WW II. We also have characters that are less than black and white which is always welcoming and a past event from 1950 in the failed landings at Pohang that still haunts the company. The weapons and uniforms are pretty much spot on and the CGi is so good you accept it as authentic.

There are a lot of emotional rants, but that goes with the territory and there is a bucket of not so subtle politicising. That is about reunification, a thread that runs from the start and through out the film, which some may find a bit of a stretch, to say why would be a plot spoiler. That all said this runs for just over two hours and held my attention from the very start and yes I was rooting for almost everyone, even the less heroic of the bunch. Director Hun Jang has done a great job with a great cast. The DVD has a whole disc of extras which has so much on it that it is like an extra film with a `making of' and loads more. In Korean with English sub titles this is a must for all serious fans of world cinema especially the ones with ruddy good battles in.
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on 3 May 2017
Ok
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on 2 March 2012
"Assured Band of Brothers Style Drama" is the bold claim on the front cover and unlike most films that make these claims this one actually delivers the goods and only just falls short of the now legendary Band of Brothers.
It's no surprise really that this was South Korea's official entry in the 2012 foreign film category of the Oscars.
The Koreans sure know how to make a good war film,in fact it seems that most non English speaking countries are now leading the way in producing first class war films,leaving Hollywood in its wake.
I usually have a good moan about what's on the disc but not today.There are a mountain of extras to get through on the two discs which equates to good value for money.The only drawback is that there is no dubbed option for people to choose.As I have stated in previous reviews that I prefer to watch foreign films in their original language with subtitles anyway so this didn't bother me(I like to hear an actors tone and infliction).The subtitles are clean,concise and well placed on the screen if a little out in translation at times.

In the waning days of the Korean war both battle worn armies are facing a deadlock on the foreboding Aerok Hills which are continually changing hands amidst brutal fighting.The hills are of vital strategic importance to the upcoming signing of the peace treaty and both sides want the hills.When the South fear their soldiers are colluding with the enemy they send a senior CIC officer up to the front line to investigate.When the CIC officer arrives he is greeted by an old friend he had long thought dead.As the investigation unfolds the collusion is explained and the CIC officer has to re evaluate his ideas of war and of what is right and wrong in wartime.
The film is littered with fantastic characters all of which have their own story and all of which is explained and threaded into the story arc with relative ease.There is an awful lot happening in this film and with lesser hands could have been ruined.The director does a beautiful job of intertwining all the characters into a cohesive storyline.The battle scenes are just superb and the sheer scale of the hills was often shown with great camera angles.
There are a couple of nods to other war film along the way.The sniper element of the story was every bit as good as Kubricks Full Metal Jacket and the continual loss and capture of the Aerok Hills was similar to Hamburger Hill.
Overall I highly recommend this film and although its not as good as Brotherhood or Band of Brothers it certainly isn't a long way from them.
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on 15 March 2017
A promising start, but then... one cliche after another. Maybe I've become a bit jaded, I don't know, but I've seen too many of these scenes done BETTER in OTHER war films. But still, a good effort, obvious all actors were trying really hard, however, the script should have been tighter, and the writer more cautious about war cliches. It all starts with the writing, and this script fell into repeating that which has been said better by other writers elsewhere. Just my personal opinion. If you haven't seen many war films, then maybe you'll like this, and be emotionally moved by it, but I lost interest after the first third of film, as the cliches started rolling in.
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on 20 April 2013
My first Korean made film...ordered on a "whim" as I have run out of other good war movies to watch, and the reviews all looked good.

I have not been disappointed. Excellent acting, good story, fantastic production values...at least equal (and possibly beyond), anything from Holywood.

Even reading the sub-titles did not distract from watching this film...

..if you think you may like it, I am confident you will...buy it and enjoy.

A rare treat to find such a good quality film that I had not even heard of until it came up on my Amazon "suggestion" list. I am now off to buy some more Korean films....

Stu
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on 12 August 2016
I’m often torn when it comes to certain brands of Asian cinema, and Korean war movies are no exception. Regardless of the country of origin, war movies which are character driven are harder than most to pull off, because uniforms and the grime of war often make it difficult to distinguish between characters. Add in a foreign language, and it makes it even more challenging.

The Front Line helps alleviate this by spending plenty of time with the characters before all hell breaks loose. Telling the story of one of the final battles of the Korean war (especially from the South Korean point of view), and highlighting in a brutal and stark way the real futility of war, we witness the repeated assaults and taking and re-taking of one hill, where thousands of troops on both sides of the war died. Into the mix we have a curious sub plot which involves troops on both sides leaving letters and gifts for the other each time they lose the hill to the opposing side, and just this one small plot device elevates the film, showing us a human face of both sides of the conflict.

The really is a movie of two halves, and it’s not without flaws. The build up is clumsy and disjointed, and it’s never really explained why everyone was fighting for the hill in the first place. I found my interest waning, but then the movie took off and took me on a journey which is thrilling, horrifying and sobering, all at once. There’s standard Korean movie tropes here – the joker character, the almost caricature acting with frantic screeching voices – but despite this, The Front Line does a good job of drawing us in to feel something for the soldiers. The action is efficient and brutal, with the by-now familiar Saving Private Ryan style of shooting, and overall this is a competent if not genre defining movie experience.

I wouldn’t watch it again, and it’s certainly not as accomplished as Taegukgi (Brotherhood of War), but it’s still a good watch.
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on 28 March 2012
Yet another example of how Hollywood & all the other major studios could learn a thing or 2 about how to make a war film.
The cinematography is just breathtaking, the film well acted & special effects brilliant - I can heartily recommend this
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 November 2012
I was surprised and IMPRESSED by this highly original and very well interpreted South Korean film - and I believe it is one of the best war movies I have seen ever (and I saw A LOT of them).

This is the story about a South Korean counter-intelligence officer, Lieutenant Kang Eun-pyo, who during the last months of Korean War is affected to an infantry company (Alligator Company) which recently lost an important position, the Aerok Hill and which commander died in suspiscious circumstances. This and also some other inteligence seems indicate, that there is a North Korean agent infiltrated amongst the soldiers. Kang's mission is to identify this man. But once he arrives to his new unit he finds much, much more than he expected. And also, Aerok Hill must be retaken - at any cost...

All this covers the first five minutes of the film and I will say no more here - you deserve to discover this excellent film by yourself.

The scenario is very, very good and very original. This film is different from anything else I ever saw. Surprises are many and we do not see most of them coming. Things described are very believable and people act logically, although the logic can be sometimes a little bit... odd. With the time we start to develop an attachment to some characters, like the drug addicted Captain Shin, the veteran of anti-Japanese guerrilla Master-Sergeant Yang and even the cold and cruel Lieutenant Kim. At one moment we even have an insight into the minds of North Korean soldiers (in a rare moment when no political officer is present) and frankly I was pretty impressed by those scenes.

Action scenes are exceptionally good, and certainly better than in the more renowned "Brotherhood of war". Great attention was given to the details concerning weaponry and uniforms. South Korean soldiers are armed with M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles, M1 semi-automatic carbines, Browning BAR light machine guns, 60 mm light American mortars and Colt M1911 pistols. North Koreans have Mosin 1891 rifles (and also for one of them a Mosin 1891/44 sniper rifle), PPSh-41 submachine guns, Maxim 1910 heavy machine guns, 82 mm Soviet mortars and Mauser 1896 pistols. I couldn't find one mistake concerning military equipement.

This is a purely Korean story - we only see an American negotiator in the first scene of the film and some US Air Force planes later on (they look a little like Douglas A1 Skyraiders). There is also at one moment a charge by a Chinese regiment. Other than that, the whole film tells the story of South and North Korean soldiers.

The final battle and the final scene are amongst the most powerful things I ever saw on screen. I will say no more here, but believe me, if you like war films, you WANT to see the last 15 minutes of this one!

Bottom line, this is an exceptionnally good film, of highest quality, in my modest opinion better in every aspect than "Brotherhood of war". I will keep my copy preciously and I recommend it with all my heart.
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on 9 October 2012
i bought this movie just as a spur of the moment "something to watch later", and i have to admit that it is one of the best films i have ever bought.
The film really outlines the futility of war, as well as heroism, bravery and the strength of the call to duty. the characters are really well developed and when a character dies, you feel a sadness for their loss. in this way, the movie can really play on your emotions.
but if you thirst for action, thrills and plenty of spills, this is an excellent buy. just make sure you read the subtitles :)
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