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Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War
DVD disk
03.11.2005 By: JoBlo
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War order
Je-gyu Kang

Bin Won
Dong-Kun Jang
Eun-ju Lee


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A sprawling Korean war epic that follows the lives of two brothers as they're both drafted into a war, about which they know very little. The older brother is more experienced than his younger sibling, and decides to take it upon himself to volunteer for over-the-top missions, in order to receive a medal, so that he could get his commander to send his brother home to their mom. Along the way, the older brother gets decorated and seems to allow the war to "get to his head". The battle between the fighting southern/northern Koreas and the brothers, ensues.
An "epic war movie" would be the best way to describe this popular Korean film, which reminded me a lot of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, as well as ENEMY AT THE GATES, two of the very best combat movies to come out in the past decade. This production included all of those films' masterful battle sequences (and then some), but wouldn't be a great motion picture without the emotional elements tying the audience to its characters, with a superb correlation between the two leading brothers, their love for one another, their gradual transformations, as well as the "brotherly" love/hate between the northern and southern Koreas. The film doesn't dwell on its undertones though, as it's clearly a love story between the two siblings, one of whom is older and stronger and only wants to provide his younger brother with all the opportunities that he never had.

The film sets the whole story up very nicely, with a mannered beginning that shows us enough of the love and joy of their family, to get into their story, once the violence of the war takes over, and let me tell you...once it does, the film rarely lets up with one violent sequence bombarded onto the next, with the same effective "editing technique" used during the battle sequences, as in the unbelievable opening from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. In fact, many of the scenes felt so similar that other than the fact that everyone in this film was Asian, I could have sworn they were from the latter film. Now even though the combat scenes were very well manufactured, and all felt very real, bloody and graphic, they actually did feel a little overdone after a while, with a lot of the violence being shown over and over again (started to feel a little like BLACK HAWK DOWN). The film also moved at a great pace, but maybe a little "too fast", with the editing between scenes feeling rushed at times.

The two brothers also came out a little too Superman-ish in certain sequences, in which a zillion bullets are flying by, but neither is skimmed or injured. I "went with it" though. Not that big of a deal. Thankfully, the director kept the tale between the two brothers at the forefront, as the emotions of their ongoing scenes together, managed to keep me fully alert and into everything else. And yes, by the end of the movie, I was crying like a child missing his baby-blanket and was damn proud of it!! The film's score was also quite effective, as were the two lead actors, and everyone else involved in the production, particularly the camera-men, the cinematographers, the production designers, all of whom obviously did an awesome job of producing an ultra-realistic and emotional tribute to their fallen war heroes (without getting too melodramatic). If you appreciate a good war movie as much as the next guy/girl, there's no reason why you shouldn't rent or buy this film, and jot it down among your combat faves. PS: This film was the costliest and most popular film in South Korean movie history.
A second disc includes all of this film’s extras, including a number of featurettes. It’s to note that all of the featurettes are spoken in Korean with English subtitles.

6.25 and Us (approx. 25 minutes): If you want some real background on the actual Korean war (it began on June 25, 1950 and last over 3 years) from folks who were actually there, historians, politicians, the filmmakers and everyone in between, this featurette is definitely for you, with a number of interviews with everyone involved, black-and-white video from the time and photos. A lot of personal stories from vets as well.

Creation (approx. 12 minutes): As the title suggests, this featurette covers the creation of the project, with director Je-gyu Kang providing us with his background on the project, along with a couple of the producers. Ironically, it was only after struggling on another two film projects that he decided to do this one. He also speaks about how he came up with the unpopular title to the movie, which I believe represents the logo to their country's flag.

War Project (approx. 15 minutes): TAE GUK GI initially started off as “the war project”. Speaking with the directors and the film’s producers, once again, we are provided with plenty of background on the actual pre-production of the film, including the budgetary issues which they had to go through, and the skepticism which they faced while shooting the movie. This is an interesting piece for anyone interested in making their own movie since it gives you some nice insight into budgets and ways to resolve certain issues.

Preparing for TAE GUK GI (approx. 17 minutes): This featurette focuses on all of the actors portraying the characters in this film, particularly the casting of the two leads (one of whom looks damn cool in a pair of kickass sunglasses), and interviews with all of them, regarding their characters. Not too interesting overall, but some damn cute Asian girls show up in caps, so stay tuned for that. If you’re interested in anything regarding the actors in this film, check it out.

The People Behind the Camera (approx. 18 minutes): As you might gauge from its title, this featurette focuses on the folks behind the camera, including the director, producers, cinematographer (great man wearing a “Squared Fucking” T-shirt during his interview), production designer, the special effects guy and everyone else under the rainbow. Lots of interviews, lots of info for all interested parties.

Making History (approx. 45 minutes): And as if all that wasn’t enough, you can dive right into this comprehensive featurette which is basically a major behind-the-scenes “making of” the film, complete with the first day’s spiritual rituals, tons of shooting of scenes and plenty of talk with everyone involved (much of it is broken down into the various sections and locations from the movie). Really gives you a deep perspective into the epic nature of the film. A great way to close up a damn fine disc of features.

Multi-Angle Storyboard Comparison: A pretty cool feature that I’ve always enjoyed myself, this 10-minute addition allows you to watch a number of scenes from the film, in both their storyboard and filmed mode, separately or at the same time. I watched the scenes with the storyboards on top. Good job.

Photo Montage: A 10-minute montage of pictures from the film, as well as some behind-the-scenes shots, shown with the film’s great score playing in the background. The good news? You can fast-forward through some of them if you want, and don’t have to sit there and look at all of them, if you don’t want to. Oh, and allow me to re-iterate how great the film’s score is.

Previews: I don’t usually mention the previews in my “extras” sections, but seeing as the director’s previous film entitled SHIRI is among the pack, I thought I’d add it here. You should definitely check it out if you get the chance. Looks like a fun, action-packed, LA FEMME NIKITA-type of movie. You can also check out this film’s trailer, as well as number of other Asian flicks.
A great movie packaged inside an exhaustive 2-disc special edition which should satisfy all fans of the movie, and anyone else interested in more info about the film's production, as well as the actual Korean war itself. Kudos to everyone involved in the making of both this film and its comprehensive disc. If you're a fan of war movies, make sure to check this one out...don't ignore it just because it's a "foreign movie"...trust me, it's good shit.
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