With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Saturday, March 24, 2018

THE BATTLESHIP ISLAND reviewed

CJ Entertainment
presents
The Battleship Island / Gun-ham-do
Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan
South Korea, 2017, 132 minutes

The Battleship Island is a historical war film from director Ryoo Seung-wan (Veteran, The Berlin File) that is currently out on DVD.

During World War II, when Korea was still under Japanese colonial rule, several hundred Korean civilians were conscripted to work in the coal mines on Hashima Island. Known as “The Battleship Island” because of its appearance in silhouette, the site was a scene of virtual slave labor.

Hwang Jung-min (Ode to My Father, The Himalayas), stars as Lee Gang-ok, a band leader who is sent there with his troupe, including his young daughter So-hee (played by the extremely talented Kim Soo-an), who sings in the band. Other Koreans on the island include: Mallyon (actress Lee Jung-hyun of Alice in Earnestland and Roaring Currents) who is to "work" as a "comfort woman"; Yoon Hak-chul, a revered resistance leader; and Park Mu-young (Song Joong-ki, Descendants of the Sun and A Werewolf Boy), a resistance fighter who has been sent to get Yoon off the island.

As the end of the war approaches, things take an unexpected turn for the worst -- even under the already deplorable conditions -- when the Japanese who run the coal mining operation determine that they must kill all the Koreans to destroy any evidence of their war crimes.

The set for the mining operation was the biggest one ever built in Korean, having taken six months to complete. It recreated about 2/3rds of the actual island, lending an extremely high air of authenticity to the film. The actin scene near the movie's end is quite energetic and graphic, one to rival the Normandy invasion scene at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan.

The film was based on actual historical events. The Hashima coal mine began operation in September, 1890, contributed significantly to Japan's military industrial sector from the 1937 invasion of China to the end of WWII, and finally closed in January, 1974. The island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. One condition of this designation was that the Japanese were to post notices about the island's forced labor and other historical facts. However, by December 2017, the Japanese had not yet complied with this oblation.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
  -- English 5.1
  -- English 2.0
  -- Korean 5.1 with English subtitles
  -- Korean 2.0 with English subtitles
-- Bonus
  -- Main Trailer (1:56) 
  -- Behind the Scenes: Set Production (3:36)
 
AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; solidly recommended

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