War of the Arrows Blu-ray l DVD
DIRECTOR: Kim Han-Min
WRITER: Kim Han-Min
STARRING: Park Hae-il, Moon Chae-won, Ryoo Seung-Ryong, Kim Mu-Yeol, Kim Ku-Taek, Lee Han-wi, Park Gi-woong
RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2012
It’s hard not to love Asian cinema. It delivers a style and an intensity not often in found in other films. Sometimes this can feel a little over the top, but, for the most part, the result is a lot of really great movies.
Sadly many people (myself included, for a time) don’t get to enjoy a whole lot of these movies because they’re not in plain sight. Sure we get the occasional Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that makes big enough waves to have a run in the States, but when it comes to lesser known titles like War of the Arrows, you need to either know where to look or have someone alert you of its presence, and that’s unfortunate.
The movie takes place in 1636 during the second Manchu invasion of Korea when China’s Qing Empire was attacking, killing, and taking slaves of the people of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty.
It follows Nam-Yi (Park Hae-il) and his sister Ja-in (Moon Chae-won), who retreat to the village of a friend of their father after he is killed. 13 years later Ja-in is set to be married to Kim Seo-gun (Kim Mu-Yeol) when the Qing attack yet again, killing many and taking most of the people of the village as prisoners, including Ja-in.
Nam-yi, having survived the attack, must set off to find and rescue his sister and the others using his master archery skills. But an equally skilled Qing archer, Commander Juisinta (Ryoo Seung-Ryong), is aware of Nam-yi and is hot on his trail with plans to stop him before he can reach her.
When reviewing a movie like War of the Arrows, I may be a bit on the biased side. I have a healthy fascination with period films of all shapes and sizes and origins, and I especially love looking back in time at Asian cultures of old, whether it be in something like a Crouching Tiger or even something American-made like The Last Samurai.
The movie itself is not one that will go down as one of the best worldwide-known titles of Asian cinema—though it is the highest-grossing film in Korean history—but it does have a lot to offer those like me who are very much into movies like it and decide to give it a try.
It has a solid story, filled with action and drama and determination. The performances are excellent all-around, and a mixture of wonderful costume designs, well-chosen settings, and a lovely musical score help to pull it all together into one impressive period epic.
Director Kim Han-Min does an incredible job of setting the tone of the film, as well. Helped along by his actors and the rest of his team, of course, a remarkable attention to detail was put into making it. When someone is killed the realism can be quite disturbing, as it should be, and the suffering of the characters is spot-on, even down to the film’s extras and child actors. The little girl at the beginning broke my heart, and there’s a scene where a large line of captives is walking along whose cries and pleas are devastating to hear. Everyone involved put their all into making this movie work.
But the real prize of the movie is the cat-and-mouse chase it presents. War of the Arrows, overall, is about a man trying to protect his little sister in the middle of two warring dynasties, but in the midst of this tale of family and conflict a great duel between Nam-yi and Commander Juisinta stands out as the two see whose bow and whose arrow will reign supreme. Their battle very much reminded me of the movie Enemy at the Gates, where two snipers go shot-for-shot during World War II, and it all builds up to an intense finale reminiscent of the end of House of Flying Daggers.
War of the Arrows is a movie that fans of Asian cinema will surely enjoy, while it’s also not a bad movie to check out if you’re just getting into foreign films. Either way, the movie, complete with all the power, emotion, and intensity you would want in a historical epic like it, is not to be missed.
Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of added special features to enjoy on this Blu-ray.
There is a brief making-of feature that takes us behind the scenes of the movie and talks to some of the actors about their experience making it.
Apart from that there’s a couple of trailers (one seen below) and some highlights from the movie which basically play as an extended trailer and shouldn’t be watched before seeing the movie first.