WAR OF THE ARROWS (Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal) (2011)

Genre: War/Drama
Director: Kim Han-min
Cast: Park Hae-il, Ryoo Seung-yong, Moon Chae-won, Kim Mu-yeol
Runtime: 2 hr 2 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Intense Sequences)
Released By: Festive Films & Cathay-Keris Films
Official Website: http://www.facebook.com/WarOfTheArrowsSG

Opening Day: 29 March 2012

Synopsis: Nam-yi, the greatest archer that Joseon ever saw must take on an entire troop of enemies on his own in order to save his sister. Jiusinta is the master archer from the continent who must protect his prince and his men from relentless prying arrows of Nam-yi. In this battle of kill or be killed which will only end when the arrow penetrates one of their hearts, bow and arrow is the weapon of choice. Light and mobile, bow is ideal for chase and ambush. It is also very efficient in inflicting the most lethal damage during a stealth attack. Although archery is normally regarded as subsidiary weapon in battles, it was reinterpreted as a deadly primary weapon in this war.

Nam-yi who must infiltrate the enemy camp all on his own, makes an effective use of his curved bow and the 300k/h super fast short arrows to stir havoc for the Qing’s elite unit, Niru. The leader of the unit, Jiusinta counters with his exceptionally powerful and destructive horn bow. Also known as ‘half-pounder,’ this longbow launches an arrow whose arrowhead alone weighs over half a pound. The powerful arrow is capable of easily severing grown men’s limbs upon impact.. 

Movie Review:

The very mention of arrows in a movie makes us think of Legolas. You know, that dude in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? The elf with straight silky golden locks who never misses when he shoots his unlimited supply of arrows? While Orlando Bloom has made quite an impression with that suave character, the arrow shooting men in this Korean production are a different breed altogether. They are rough, ragged and, well, to put it simply, manly. 

Set during the second Manchu invasion of Korea, the manliest one of them all in this movie has to be the protagonist played by Park Hae Il, who goes against the Qing Dynasty to save his younger sister. He also happens to be the best archer in Korea, but because his father was killed as a traitor, one can imagine how limited his future in the country is. One unfortunate follows another, when his younger sister is abducted during her wedding ceremony. Thus begins the quest to save her sister and her husband from the Qing army. In the process, countless arrows are shot, and as you’d expect from a revenge movie, there will be lots of blood.

Director Kim Han Min’s work was the second highest grossing movie in Korea last year, and it is not difficult to see why. The fast paced epic action movie boasts of exhilarating sequences which will keep you at the edge of your seats. While you may wonder how a war of arrows can possibly be exciting, you will be thrilled by the perfect execution and choreography of the battle scenes (beat that, Legolas!). The action comes at you fast and furious, and even though there aren’t many hand to hand combat, the long distance fighting is heart stopping and riveting.

The story may be based on a period of Korean history which we aren’t very familiar with, but the filmmakers make sure it doesn’t alienate foreign viewers. Essentially, it is a story about heroism, justice and revenge – universal themes which anyone can identify with. This creates a win win situation: Box office success both at home and in foreign lands.

The 122 minute production, being an action flick, does not provide many emotionally engaging moments. Not that we are complaining though, because for most of the movie, you see the protagonist either chasing his sister’s kidnappers, or the bad guys chasing him. There are invasions, battles, confrontations and quarrels. The set pieces are impressive, and there is quite a bit of decent use of computer graphics to enhance the storytelling. 

The ensemble cast does a nice job of portraying the anguish and tension felt by the characters during this war of arrows. Park manages to exude a respectable charm with his predictably written character, while the fragile looking Moon Chae Won plays his sister in distress with grace and elegance. The two actors took home the Best Actor and Best New Actress at the 2011 Daejong Film Awards, an established award presented by Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Information. The film also took home the accolades for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects.

This undeniably enjoyable popcorn production packs just the right amount of punch and pizzazz to engage and entertain for a good two hours at the movies

Movie Rating:

(An exciting Korean movie which triumphs with its fast paced action sequences)

Review by John Li

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