Kicks Private Ryan’s arse!
When I slipped in the disc for Brotherhood I expected a really good war film. I didn’t expect to be sitting on the sofa with my eyes filled with tears by the end of it, and convinced that I’d just seen one of the very best war films ever. My love for Korean films is unabashed. Whilst Korean horror is what I go for most, I have also tried and loved some of their explosive thrillers like, The Man from Nowhere and A Bittersweet Life. War films aren’t really my thing though. My favourite war film is probably Inglorious Basterds, but even that isn’t really interested in showing us battle sequences. What’s fantastic about Brotherhood is that it puts its characters first. In fact, this is what the majority of Korean films tend to do and I think that’s the secret to their brilliance. With Brotherhood, I was gripped by every battle sequence because I cared about the people who were in them. It’s a real epic which spans across the entire length of the Korean War, as well as briefly showing us before and after events take place. If someone said to me ‘oh, this is a movie about the Korean War…’ I’d immediately switch off because war movies just don’t interest me. Brotherhood makes you interested right from the very start. The first half an hour is dedicated to events before the war. We see two fantastically likeable brothers who are devoted to their family. Some may find it overly sentimental, however for me it worked. I immediately cared about these characters and was totally gripped from when they’re whisked away to fight in the war. The battle sequences are brilliantly intense to watch. The camera does shake a little too much for my liking, but it’s really not that much of a distraction. They’re intense because you care about what’s going to happen to the characters. When a comrade dies you almost feels as much pain as the other characters do. The special effects are also very convincing (apart from the shoddy CGI planes towards the end) and manage to put you right there in the firing line. What’s most interesting though is watching the two brothers slowly grow apart from each other. At its heart, Brotherhood is a tragedy. One brother turns into a cold-hearted and ruthless leader, whilst the other remains compassionate. This arc is done gradually and realistically throughout the film and it’s what keeps the film so emotional and absorbing. The ruthless brother could’ve easily come across as a caricature, but thanks to the fantastic writing and acting we’re left with convincing character development and remain involved with the character. Various shocking events unfold which have the power to move, however it’s the relentlessly melodramatic final twenty minutes which really hit hard. Again, many will find this finale too melodramatic and sentimental, but for me it totally worked.
I’m not one to cry in films (the only ones I’ve shed tears for are Dancer in the Dark and Amour) however, there are several moments towards the end where I had tears REALLY filling up in my eyes. It’s incredibly emotional and ultimately powerful. Brotherhood isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a damn near one. I was never bored for a minute of its hefty 140 minute runtime. I cannot urge people enough to check this out, even if (like me) you aren’t into war films. At its core it’s a character-driven tragedy with the Korean War used as a mere backdrop. It’s ten times better than Saving Private Ryan and if you aren’t moved by the time it’s over then you truly do have a heart of stone. Brotherhood is a spectacular triumph which needs to be watched for its sheer emotional power.