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71 Into the War: To Fight Or Die

Posted on the 25 September 2012 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan
71 Into the War: To Fight or Die

Movie: 71 into the War (Pohwasogeuro)

Director: John H. Lee

Cast: Seung–Won Cha, Sang-Woo Kwone and Seung-Woo

Rating: ****

Korean filmmakers are no alien to war movies as much as established Hollywood filmmakers and the rest of the world is. If you’ve been under the assumption that only Steven Spielberg and Terrence Mallick of the world can make war films, then you haven’t taken out time to watch some of the best war flicks from Korea. From critically underrated director John H. Lee comes the awe-inspiring story of 71 teenagers who despite having no war-fighting skills bravely fought the communists in the Korean war of 1950.

On Aug 8, 1950, in the middle of Korean War, 71 student-soldiers of the South Korean army were told to hold their ground for two hours to defend what is believed to be the last province of Pohang, a middle school.

From the word go, its bam-bam, kaboom, blood-splashing, body torn into pieces and flying in the air, in ‘71 into the War’. The director didn’t waste time in explaining the history behind Korean War, but straight away shifted focus to Aug 8, 1950 instead.

The underlining element of the film was to highlight the urgency and the dire situation of the South Korean army. It was not about winning at that juncture, but to protect what’s left of them and claim ownership of the land. Reportedly, Lee made the film based on the letter that came from one of the 71 deceased students.

As the legion of young students prepare for the oncoming onslaught, some of them express the lack of group skills thus paving way to ego. Lee has brilliantly captured what it is like putting 71 rebellious young students, some with juvenile record, on a mission to protect something of higher value. You also witness the lack of leadership skills, inability to cope with pressure and the acceptance of a goal by the students, which clearly explains how unskilled they are for the job.

One of the best roles in the film is that of Oh Jung-Bum, who initially runs around the battlefield in the first scene doing small errands such as refilling ammunitions, later gets handed over the responsibility to lead the student-soldiers. Here, you see the classic example of display of the rise of a leader, who stands up and takes control of the situation.

Lack of inexperience drives the students to adopt the most unconventional survival tactics in the book – guerilla attack. If you can’t win then at least cause as much damage as possible to the opponent. Lee mixes drama and action in this high-octane, adrenaline-pumping action flick by carving his characters in such a way that there’s plenty of room for both. The incompatibility between Jung-Bum and Kap-Jo gives birth to heart-touching moments.

The production values are top notch and the film also successfully highlights the state of war affairs during the Korean War. When watched on big screen, this might very well be one of the best war films out of Hollywood.

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