Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War was the first Kang Je-gyu film I saw and the second Korean film I ever purchased, the first being Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, obviously. I was in absolute awe after seeing Kang’s take on the Korean War and felt that after seeing this and his first film Shiri, I felt the man could do no wrong. It has been seven years since Taegukgi has come out and Kang has finally returned to tell another war story with his latest film, My Way. Based off of a real account of a Korean soldier ending up as a German soldier in Normandy, the story revolves around two men, Jun-shik Kim (Dong-gun Jang) and Tatsuo Hasegawa (Jo Odagiri). Beginning in the late 1920’s, Jun-shik Kim and his family are servants to the Hasagawa family farm in Japanese occupied Korea. The two boys begin a rivalry that extends into their adulthood, where both are trying out for the Olympics, in the running competition. When a judge wrongfully disqualifies Jun-shik, the Korean’s revolt and cause a major riot against the Japanese. Instead of being imprisoned or executed, Jun-shik and his friends are sent into the Imperial army to fight against the Soviets. After spending a year on the front lines, Jun-shik finds out that Hasegawa is now a Colonel in the army and tries everything in order to escape back to his home and family.
Both Dong-gun Jang and Jo Odagiri showcase some of the best work they’ve ever done in My Way. While I was aware of how good Dong-gun Jang would be, with the fact that he was really great in Taegukgi under Kang Je-gyu’s direction, I was extremely surprised at how Jo Odagiri was as Colonel Hasegawa. While the setting of the film would automatically make for the Japanese character to be the antagonist, there were many elements in the film that made one understand the mind set of Odagiri’s character. Not only this, but the chemistry between both actor’s shown through their rivalry and eventual understanding of one another, depict their genuine talent, as well as the caliber of Kang Je-gyu’s abilities. Not only the actor’s in this film are great, but every single battle sequence is a complete spectacle and deserves to be seen on a very large screen. From a clever sniper battle, to a full frontal assault with tanks, My Way delivers in every single action scene and never ceases to impress.
If there’s any real downside to the film, its that they’re a few scenes that are a little cheesy and the fact that the filmmakers took some liberties with the real story. The real POW that was found by American soldiers landing in Normandy ended up going to America, living into his old age in Illinois. While its not as accurate as other films, the war film presented in My Way is a real enough portrait of brutal warfare and a great enough story to look beyond these falsehoods and just simply enjoy one of the finer offering’s that South Korean cinema has to offer. Highly Recommended!