Directed by Lee Jae-han
Starring Cha Seung-won, Kwon Sang-woo,
Choi Seung-hyun, and Kim Seung-woo
South Korea, 2010, 120 min.
As a blogger who has written about many of their offerings, I had the pleasure of attending The Korea Society's special members-only New York premiere of this film on Tuesday, July 27th. According to the distributor Lotte Entertainment, the film is scheduled to be released in several U.S. cities today, Friday, July 3oth. My understanding is that the film will be shown on fourteen screens in theater chains such as AMC and MPARK4 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. More screens and a wider release are possible if the film does well. Check your local listings.
Here's a brief synopsis:
71 Into The Fire is the story of 71 student soldier who fought an impossible battle against seasoned North Korean army during the Korean War, which broke out in 1950. Based on real events, the film depicts their emotions and conflicts as they experience the grown-ups’ war and the fierce defense that teenage student soldiers put up as they fought a much larger force of seasoned and combat-hardened North Korean soldiers.
As I expected, this was a pretty jingoistic film and a bit melodramatic, but a very well-made. interesting and engrossing one. I suspect that it is based very loosely on real events, at least in terms of the personal dramas depicted.
Much of the film is devoted to battle scenes: think of several extended scenes of the Normandy invasion as depicted in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Initially this bothered me a bit, but I think that besides showing the horrors of warfare (and the film is quite graphic in that regard), the filmmakers also wanted to convey that combat is something one can't take a break from, that it is unrelenting. Unless of course you get killed, wounded, freeze-up, or desert.
I'm a fairly early "baby boomer" and watching 71 Into The Fire reminded my of the WWII Hollywood films that I watched on TV in the Fifties, though it's in color, more explicit, and much better made. For me, and I think for most Americans, the Korean War is a subject that I don't know a great deal about (and I got my Ph.D. in U.S. History). So learning more about it in this filmic depiction of real events was informative in addition to be entertaining, albeit in a serious way.
ACF Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, solidly recommended
Note that the I've also seen the title written as 71-Into the Fire and 71: Into the Fire. Obviously I prefer the way I've chosen to write it here in this review.
The trailer can be seen on YouTube at: