This is the sort of film the word `epic' was coined for. It is a Korean World War II film that takes in China, Russia and Europe as its scenes for some really well done battles. It is based on `true events', and I suspected a lot of licence has been taken but have since found out that this is based on the life of a Korean captured by the Americans on D Day in a Wermacht uniform - Yang Kyougjong.
The film is the story of two men Jun-Shik (Dong-gun Jang `Brotherhood') and Tatsuo (Jo Odagiri - `Shinobi'), the former is Korean and the latter Japanese. They are both keen runners and an early rivalry starts between them as children when Tatsuo's family move to the now conquered Korea to bring the Imperial Army jackboot down on the populace. An enmity soon grows between the two which is worsened by Japans decision to not allow Koreans to do the try outs for the Olympics.
As a result of the ensuing unrest many Koreans and press ganged or sentenced to fight in the Imperial Army, this happens to Jun-Shik and many of his friends, they are sent to China to further the war that has been raging there since 1937. They have to face Russian tanks with swords drawn and strap bombs to themselves as suicide attacks and it all kicks off. Hopelessly out numbered and out gunned they are taken prisoners of the Russians. This now begins the story of bitter struggle in the camps and the ensuing journey across Europe. To say any more would be a plot spoiler, but having said that there is rather a lot of plot so please don't think I have revealed too much already.
There are some great battle scenes and the action is all excellent as is the period detail and the languages are all authentic too, including Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, German and English; so this is obviously sub titled. There is rather a lot of CGI and it is all on the above average side, but considering the scope and ambition of this film, they could not have done it any other way.
This is from `Brotherhood' director Kang Je - Kyu who has taken seven years off but made this in ten months, I just hope he doesn't need such a break this time. For location fans this was actually shot in Latvia, but I did not feel this lacked authenticity. Whilst this is unashamedly emotional as most Korean cinema is, it is still brimming with action and no on screen time is wasted, it is an edge of seat marathon with a run time of 2 hours and eighteen minutes, you get a 40 minute `making of' as an extra too. If you are a fan of the ever growing catalogue of Korean action films, then this is one you will want to add to your collection - unmissable.