Movie Review: 71-Into the Fire 포화 속으로 (Po-hwa Sok-eu-ro)
By a complete accident, I went into a theater to see one film and when I saw that they were giving a sneak preview of this film I immediately jumped at the chance to see the one Korean film that I wanted to see this summer.
I didn't know much about this film before I saw it. I knew that it was the Korean big screen debut of K-pop star T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyeon) and that the films preview looked like a Korean version of the Alamo or 300. I knew that this was the 2nd film to arrive at the Korean box office about the Korean War this year and after the huge failure of the first one A Little Pond I really wasn't sure what to expect about this film.
I soon learned that this film was based on a true story in which On Aug. 10, several hundred South Korean soldiers and 71 teenagers were drafted for the national emergency in Pohang. Due to the shortage of men, the small city was left in the hands of the 71 teenagers to try and stop the advancing North Korean Army.
What I really liked about this film was the young hero Oh Jang-beom (played by T.O.P.) When he is placed in command of these 71 teens, you soon discover that he has no idea how to be a leader. All he wants is the war to be over so he can go home and see his mother. In the film, it was stated that he wrote a letter to his mother and he wrote this to her, " Mother I might die today… I'm not afraid of death, but I'm afraid I might never see you or my brothers again. I wish the war would end soon so I may return to your arms." You see this thought the film, a simple boy wanting to return home.
I also liked the North Korean officer in charge, General Park Mu-rang (played Cha Seung-won) Once he figures out that he is going against teens, I saw how arrogant he became in his expected victory.
The film has its moments of humor, when the radio man ask by making a call, how they actually can operate a small artillery piece was funny. But as in war film there are the moments of terror that the film shows. The audience I was with were cringing at the final battle scenes. They felt the loss of these young teens who were trying just to stay alive in the insanity of war.
After the film was over the credits stated that Some 60 North Korean soldiers lost their lives while 48 of the 71 boys died. One of the fallen heroes, 16-year-old Lee U-geun, left behind letters addressed to his mother that testify to the horrors of war. When the film showed an actual survivor of the battle talking about that day and crying for his lost friends, the entire audience did not move at all.
This is when I knew that I had just seen a great film that I will want to add to my DVD collection ASAP. Please see this film when it opens up on 16 June 2010. I have no idea where any English subtitles will be for this film at the time of the writing of this review.