Genre: War/Drama
Director: Kang JeGyu
Starring: Jang DongGun, Wong Bin
RunTime: 2 hrs 20 mins
Released By: Encore Films and Warner Bros
Rating: NC-16 (Edited Version)

Release Date: 15 July 2004

Synopsis (Courtesy from Encore Films and Warner Bros):

JinTae (Jang DongGun) shines shoes hoping to save money to send his younger brother JinSuk (Won Bin) to university. Their mother runs a noodle shop wishing the best for her two sons even though life has been difficult since her husband has passed away. Sending JinSuk to university has become the beacon of light in their lives. When war breaks out in Korea (25 June 1950), JinSuk is unwillingly conscripted into the war. JinTae is forced to join the war to save his brother from the perils of war. Without money or influence, the only way to save his brother is for JinTae to enlist in suicide missions in order to earn the Medal of Honour. This is the only thing that will guarantee JinSuk's release. JinSuk fails to understand his brother's act and misinterprets it as a dangerous mix of patriotism and an obsession with fame and glory. It is only at the fatal end when JinSuk realises the truth of his brother's sacrifice.


The title of this movie “Taegukgi” refers to the name of the national flag of South Korean. This touching tale of brotherhood took place in the midst of the Korean War which started in the summer of 1951 to 1953. Unless you are an avid fan of World history, the Korean War is practically forgotten or went unnoticed by the rest of the World population, as most of us would just remember the end of World War II in 1945.

The plot follows the trials of JinTae (Jang Donggun) and JinSuk (Won Bin), two brothers living a simple yet jovial life. Elder brother JinTae sacrificed his education to fork a living, harboring the hope to send JinSuk to university so as to bring glory to the family. Unfortunately, war breaks out and they are incidentally drafted into the army. The ever-protective JinTae wants JinSuk out of the army but first he must engage himself in suicide missions to achieve a medal of honor, the only thing that will guarantee JinSuk's release.

The pairing up of the charismatic Jang Donggun and handsome idol Won Bin is amazingly effective. The inner struggle of JinTae, a man of few words but conveyed successfully by Jang’s brooding eyes and compelling body skills. Won Bin who in the past has acted only in Korean Drama serials (“Taegukgi” is his second big screen feature) have shown tremendous potential opposite Jang. If both of them were unable to convince the audience, the movie would be a straight flop seeing that their screen time occupied at least 98% of the 140 minutes movie. The rest of the supporting cast did a marvelous job as well. Due to the limitations of the plot, most characters are left mostly unexplored citing the case of Lee EunJoo who portrayed the pitiful, wife-to-be of JinTae. Towards the last act of the movie, a little portion of the communist issue gets lengthy and nearly falls to the trap of being too emotional and melodrama.

Technically, “Taegukgi” has achieved great heights. Possessing the highest production budget (US$13 million) in Korean movie industry. The efforts which go to the props, costumes, locations, ammunition, armored vehicles and extras are comparable to a Hollywood production. Even the ongoing seasons and unpredictable weather are captured beautifully on screen. With the exception of the CG enhanced fighter planes which looked too cheesy even from afar. Guess the comfort of engaging ILM is out of the question. Apparently, a tremendous amount of research is done to ensure the authenticity of the numerous details.

Did I left out the battle sequences? Nope, we are coming to that. For those who like plenty of battle sequences, well, there are plenty. Multiple explosions, mutilated bodies, gunshots and hand-to-hand combats graced the screen for almost every 15 minutes of screen time. Though it would be better if the cinematographer can actually pulled back the camera a bit so as to allow the audience to indulge in the spectacle.

Director Kang JeGyu has proven he is not just an ordinary box-office director. But one that possess the heart to weave a tale that is heart-warming and touching to the core of many. Next time, don’t dismiss your gifts from your love ones as simply gifts, a pen or a pair of shoes can do wonders to memories (I wouldn’t want to give away anything here, go watch the movie). “Brotherhood” as it is re-titled here locally, is a touching tale worth telling and watching. If there is only one movie that is going to put Korean movie industry to the world. This is going to be it!

Movie Rating: A-

  Publicity Stills of "Brotherhood" (Courtesy from Encore Films and Warner Bros)

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