Another war epic drama from Brotherhood of War director.
In 1938, when Korea is under Japanese rule, a Korean (Jang Dong-gun) & a Japanese (Joe Odagiri) want to become Olympic runners but are forced to join the army when the war breaks out between Japan & U.S.S.R…
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Director Kang Je-gyu is back after 8 years of absence with this big budget war film. My Way is a pan-Asian production, involving South Korean & Chinese companies, with an all-star cast; Joe Odagiri (Japan), Jang Dong-gun (South Korea) and Fan Bingbing (China).
The film is loosely inspired by a true story, which was rediscovered only few years ago – early 2000s (article in Korean). It’s about a Korean soldier which was captured by the U.S. troops on D-Day in June 1944. The man had traveled many countries, wore the Soviet & Japanese uniforms, and survived through many difficult experiences. In real life, after the war, this man moved to the United States, where he lived as a commoner until his death in 1992, without telling this war story.
The director is using the main points-structure of this story to explore humanism, hope & friendship. And just like his previous work Brotherhood of War, there’s a complete lack of subtlety, again!
Instead of focusing on the Asian/Pacific front, My Way goes the other way to show another side of WW2, which has rarely been seen on screen. The adventure begins in Japanese-occupied Korea, the country is filled with discrimination & Japanese patriotism.
It continues on the battlefields in Manchuria, where the Japanese Army is fighting against the soviet tanks & some Chinese rebels. In the army, one must respect & obey the chain of command, even when high-ranked officers are giving terrible orders. And there, Korean soldiers are constantly being humiliated, just like some Japanese “traitors.”
What’s next? The Siberian forced labor camps, where prisoners have no ranks, the cold is slowly killing people & frozen bodies are burnt. But it’s not all. These POWs are then forced to join the Soviet army, only to be killed on the battlefield. If they’re lucky, they have a rifle with very few ammunitions.
Finally, the last stop, the meeting with the Germans. It’s the most peaceful moment of the film, until D-Day at least. Which is filmed from the inside of the German army, with soldiers in the blockhouses, under the enemy fire. Quite a stunning adventure!
LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF…
To be clear, the film uses almost every war cliché possible. In fact, the first hour is amazingly simplistic; Japanese are evil, Korean are victims, Soldiers are bastards, Korean soldiers are good.
But, and that’s interesting, the adventure will slowly bring more to this simple plot, don’t expect too much though. Every time the character’s situation is changing, their values are completely returned.
For example, this Korean soldier who becomes a Soviet guard in the gulag, he openly abuses his new power on the Japanese soldiers – it’s his revenge. On another level, it’s one of the characters who understands how armies are the same everywhere. How it is important to have hope.
Whatever the changes are, the film keeps things simple & clearly understandable. To deliver this tear jerking, anti-war, humanist message. Where emotions are always forced into the story. It’s bold, it’s loud.
TIME TO CRY
This $20Mil blockbuster offers some great battles, lots of explosions and visual effects giving some of the very few epic shots of the film. It’s visually nice, but it’s not that engaging – thanks to the one-dimensional characters.
Another point, the film can’t keep still for a moment. The camera is always moving, scenes have been shot under several different angles, and the editing is too sharp & too fast. Quite frustrating. It doesn’t leave some time to really enjoy what’s on screen. To care about the characters. Knowing the film is filled with some terrible tear-jerking music, breaking the mood of most scenes.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
My Way is an epic tear-jerking war drama, whose greatest idea is to present WW2 under another/rarely seen angle. But then, there’s this simplistic & cliché message about hope. There’s the need to underline every emotions, to be loud and restless. Predictable & disappointing — 4/10.