Brotherhood: Taegukgi (2004) [Review]

brotherhood

“Brotherhood: Taegukgi” shows the horrendous events that took place on the front line during the Korean War. Spawned out of Cold War tensions, divisions created post-World War 2 and included 3 of the worlds military heavyweights (US, Russia & China), this was a brutal, unforgiving and costly war. Just under 200,000 died in total, and over 500,000 wounded in the space of 3 years (1950-1953), all to maintain the border between the North & South that remains to this day.

Within this, Brotherhood tells the story of two brothers from South Korea, Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) and Jin-Seok (Won Bin), both nabbed in the aggressive conscription imposed on them from their government, and sent off to fight a war they wanted nothing to do with. In the face of a dangerous and bleak future, the older of the two brothers, Jin-Tae, takes it upon himself to ensure his younger brothers safety at all costs.

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Ultimately, this inseparable bond between brothers is tested to the furthest of lengths. Jin-Tae begins to embrace the soldier inside of him, while Jin-Seok searches for the old version of his brother he once knew. Chaotic, unprepared and gruesome, the brothers and their respective platoon constantly remain within inches of death as bullets, grenades and airstrikes rain down on them in some of the most impressive war-based action sequences I have seen. As they process these horrendous conditions and the constant bombardment the grim reality of war has to offer, it transforms them both into barely recognisable versions of themselves, adding an intriguing psychological undercurrent to the action taking place all around them.

The director, Kang Je-gyu, has been given a huge budget for this film off the back of his prior success in South Korea, and it has clearly been put to good use. It looks and feels authentic, which is completely essential to not only create a genuine sense of excitement and horror, but to balance out the melodramatic nature of the sibling story-line that gradually seeps out of the realm of possibility. Equal parts drama and frantic action, Brotherhood manages to sustain interest by not over-doing any one particular aspect, and in turn presents the characteristics you expect from a film about war to an extremely high standard.

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The ‘War’ genre is a difficult one to compete within. The films within them immediately draw comparisons to each other even if the wars are entirely different. Strange when you consider that we do not hold dramas, action movies or romantic comedies to the same level of scrutiny. From All Quiet On The Western Front, The Great Escape, ZuluPlatoon and Saving Private Ryan to name a few, they each succeed in their own right yet we compare and contrast them relentlessly. Perhaps this is because there are fewer of these.

Regardless, Brotherhood stands on its own. Two incredible performances from the leads, a captivating storyline with action sequences that leave you speechless, it didn’t even cross my mind that it had been on for just over 2 hours. This big budget epic requires no comparisons; it is a ridiculously good film, and is a welcome addition to the War genre.

Brotherhood is available on Amazon & Googleplay.

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7 responses to “Brotherhood: Taegukgi (2004) [Review]

  1. So glad you enjoy this film! I live here in South Korea (I’m an American) and this is a film of national pride. Incidentally, the title Taegukgi (태국기) means “flag” or more specifically, the flag of Korea. It’s a great film and worth a watch. Great review!

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      • Yup, been here more than 7 years. Love it. Oh there are so many great films. My fave is The Chaser, which is simply brilliant in every way and shattered my expectations of what thriller should be. Then of course, The Host, Blood and Ties, The Thieves, Spring Summer Fall Winter…And Spring Again, Swiri, Mother, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance….and on and on. Glad you like it. Some Korean films can be really over dramatic and their comedies are a bit over the top, but enjoy many and am happy to see them gaining a wider audience.

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      • That’s incredible. I’d love to visit South Korea. My girlfriend seems to think I’m odd for wanting to visit a country purely based on the films they produce!

        The Chaser is such a brilliant film. The fight sequences were fantastic. I wouldn’t be able to choose a favourite. In no particular order, here’s some I’ve really enjoyed;

        Oldboy
        Brotherhood
        The Chaser
        A Bittersweet Life
        The Man From Nowhere
        I Saw The Devil
        Mother
        Sympathy for My Vengeance
        A Dirty Carnival
        The Yellow Sea
        Public Enemy
        Haemoo
        Hwajang (Really really fucking good)
        Hide & Seek

        I’ll be going to the South Korean Film Festival again this year in London to get my fix. Cannot wait.

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      • Some of these Korean directors are real visionaries. I’m glad the films have got you interested in learning more about Korea! Maybe someday you’ll make if over for a visit. Your list is filled with good ones, no doubt. Have fun at the festival!

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  2. Wow!! I can see you love Korean movies! Im so happy! I saw almost all of your Korean movie lists. 🙂 I like your choice of movies except Oldboy haha. Many people love it but it’s too dark for me! I like “The Chaser, The man from nowhere, A dirty carnival, Hide&Seek… Etc.

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