Korean Movie Review – My Way (마이 웨이)

Directed by Kang Je-gyu

Action/War

137 minutes

If I were a filmmaker I would hate Steven Spielberg. Not because I think his films are great, because I don’t, but if I wanted to make a war film, I couldn’t film a battle sequence without someone comparing it to “Saving Private (Bloody) Ryan”!

As a reviewer, I should stay impartial and treat every film on its own merit, but my first thought when I saw the trailer for Korea’s most expensive film ever, “My Way,” was “Oooh, I wonder if the battle scenes are better than ‘Saving Private Ryan’?” Curse you, Spielberg!

Based on a true story, the film opens with a shot of a Korean runner sprinting to the front of the marathon during the 1948 Olympic Games. We cut to what was Seoul in 1928 Japanese-occupied Korea. 

Jun-shik (Jang Dong-gun) and his family work on a farm owned by Tatsuo’s (Joe Odagiri) grandfather. Because of their passion for running, they become rivals from an early age. This escalates to pure hatred after Tatsuo’s grandfather is killed by a bomb and Jun-shik’s father is blamed. 

Despite being banned from the competition, Jun-shik wins the All Japan Trials for the marathon but is disqualified, which starts a riot among the Koreans, with hundreds of the perpetrators drafted into the Japanese army. This begins their journey, where the two men are forced to fight not only enemies from other continents, but fight their feelings for each other if they are to survive.

“My Way” is a huge film with large set pieces and lavish sets that spans 20-odd years. The film succeeds in recreating not only the time period, but also the grand scale of the war using hundreds of extras, several camera set-ups for each scene and large pyrotechnics to create grandiose battle sequences. You can tell a lot of time, effort and money went into the production. If only the same could be said for the script and the acting.

It’s not that the dialogue is bad per se, it’s just extremely clichéd and very, very predictable. This, in turn, doesn’t give the actors much of a chance with the dialogue that they have, so everything feels extremely fake. The two leads are sworn enemies who are at war. But then suddenly they are the best of friends who would die for one another. It all just feels rather forced and, dare I say it, Hollywood-esque.

For a film that was Korea’s most expensive ever, it’s rather ironic that it appears to rely on a Hollywood sensibility and ends up at times looking like a “Saving Private Ryan.” Just not as good. I blame Steven Spielberg.

Categories: Reviews

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