With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NORTHERN LIMIT LINE reviewed; available today from Well Go USA

Well Go USA Entertainment
Northern Limit Line / N.L.L: Yeonpyeong Haejeon
 Directed by KIM Hak-soon
South Korea, 2015, 130 minutes

Northern Limit Line, a contemporary film based on an actual confrontation between North and South Korean naval forces, debuts on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD today, Tuesday, October 20 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The title refers to the demarcation line in the Yellow Sea below which North Korean vessels were not allowed; in other words it was the northern limit of South Korean control in that area. On June 29, 2002, vessels of the North Korea navy crossed the line and attacked Chamsuri 357, a South Korean naval vessel, resulting in deaths of six South Korean sailors, with numerous others wounded. (No figures are given about North Korean casualties, but that's hardly surprising or significant.)

The clash took place during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was of great interest to Chamsuri's crew members and to South Koreans in general. The competition took place in South Korea and Japan, and the South Korean soccer team managed to reach the semi-finals.

PARK Dong-hyuk, played by LEE Hyun-woo

The film, which marks the directorial debut of KIM Hak-soon, uses the popular "bookend" structure. It begins in the immediate aftermath of the confrontation, as the South Korean wounded are being rescued, and concludes with events that followed, including memorial services and burials.

The dramatic narrative that makes up the bulk of the film centers on three characters. The main protagonist is Petty Officer 2nd Class PARK Dong-hyuk, played by LEE Hyun-woo (The Con Artists). We meet him as he is transferred to Chamsuri 357 where he will serve as medic and will be known as "First Aid." He's greeted by KWON Ki-hyung, a buddy from boot camp who is alraeady serving on 357.

Lt. Commander YOON Young-ha (KIM Mu-yeol salutes his father

The second significant character is Lt. Commander YOON Young-ha (KIM Mu-yeol, War of the Arrows). The son of a retired high ranking naval officer, he is the ship's new commander. Because he is such a "by the rules" officer, he is nick-named "The Poisoner" by his crew.

Finally there is Staff Sergeant HAN Sang-guk (JIN Goo, The Admiral), the helmsmen. In the course of events, he is to receive a transfer because of a hand problem (most definitely not a good thing for a helmsman), but the clash occurs before he is reassigned.

Their intertwining stories and those of some secondary characters nicely flesh out the large middle section of the film. The extensive combat scene, which occurs near the film's end, is extremely well done and practically puts the viewer in the midst of the battle. Don't be surprised if you find yourself ducking and weaving, trying to avoid enemy fire.

HAN Sang-guk (JIN Goo), the ship's helmsman

Some of the final scenes are extremely touching without being melodramatic. I'm referring to the recovery of the body of one of the crew members from the sunken ship and of the documentary footage of the services for the deceased.

Be sure to stick around during the film's end credits: as they roll on one side of the screen, several survivors from the incident (seen in windows on the other side) speak about the incident and their departed crew mates.

The film offers two Korean soundtracks: one is 5.1 DTS HDMA, the other 2.0 stereo. The English subtitles are removable.  Sadly the only "extras" are the film's trailer and preview trailers of three other Well Go USA offerings (Assassination, Wolf Warrior, and The Front Line).

AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars; recommended. The release would have merited an even higher rating if some substantive extras, such as a "Making Of" featurette and perhaps a short documentary about the incident, had been included.

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