War of the Arrows
War of the Arrows (AKA: Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon): [No points for guessing which of the titles is American]. In the second Manchurian invasion of Korea a talented archer has to evade capture, and save his sister from the aggressors. At a glance this looks like just another historical Asian film, but don’t be fooled. It’s far more engaging than the run-of-the-mill, politically skewed, national pride / anniversary movies we’ve seen lately; the central character is developed beyond simply ‘the hero’; it’s also both character and action driven, and is centered around a simple story. Most importantly, it’s unbelievably well-directed: looks great and very stylish, with intense & bloody fights (it has some of the coolest action scenes in a loooong time), and great use of multiplying many small locations together and making this feel like a huge story. All of this makes the story more immersive, which is most evident during a fist-pumping underdog uprising and final act. Having become turned off by the though of watching another historical Asian flick, War of the Arrows is a great film that re-instated my interest in the genre – it hits the target, bullseye! South Korea does it again.
Great review. I especially loved the first sentence. Very funny!
I have seen two historial South Korean films, TaeGukGi and The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The former is a Korean War drama while the latter is an action-comedy set in 1930s Manchuria. In the case of TaeGukGi, I appreciated its fair look at the war by showing that both sides were equally capable of committing wartime atrocities, while many American movies about the same war instantly say, “Communists were bad, anticommunists were good.”
At the same time, in The Good, The Bad, The Weird, the Imperial Japanese Army has a pretty significant presence. The Japanese were used more or less purely for comedic effect; I feel like a Chinese movie about the same time and place would only depict the Japanese in an effort to villainize them (to be fair, they did commit the Rape of Nanking among other things). Thus, that is why I feel like from what I’ve seen, South Korean film generally tries to be fair about everything historical.
Thanks for the big comment Nasen! I’ve only seen Good/Bad/Weird of those two, but it’s one of my favourite films of the decade so far, such a great action romp. Of all the national film industries around, S Korea’s definitely the best in my eyes. Always try to catch what I can from there :)
Can’t believe I would have missed this film if I hadn’t read your review. It’s all you say and more. Great climax. The only sore point for me was the tiger attack. Too obviously cgi. Maybe better editing could have made it more real. But this scene lasts maybe 2 seconds out of a 2 hour movie and, for me, was the only time I questioned the reality of what I was watching. Brilliant!
Glad you caught this, and glad you got a use out of the site. That’s made my day. Cheers!