71: Into the Fire

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 Into the FireI spoke too soon about not enough concern for the anniversary of the Korean War. A drama about the war is playing on the TV, and earlier my wife and I watched the ninth installment of a documentary on the same. And today, we saw 71 Into the Fire (포화 속으로). I can’t vouch for this film’s historical accuracy. But, South Korean directors continue to display an amazing ability to portray both bathos and pathos in war films. Plenty of young girls flocked to the theater to see T.O.P., and they all seemed to be sitting behind me. And then, there was this adorable little toddler brandishing a diminutive pink umbrella like a sword running up and down the aisle beside me. Yet, I also liked the film, what I would call a B+ film – entertaining but not brilliant.

I do not like this fad for hyper-realism. I don’t like to see every drop of spittle and vomit, how syrupy the imitation blood is, or every freckle. And, South Korean directors continue to blunder with foreign actors. Slow motion should only be used once in a film. But, the bad guys had personalities, and the good guys had their faults. I was invested emotionally in the film from beginning to end. I would buy the DVD, and research the events.

Yet, I am troubled by that cringe-worthy performance by an American general. When a South Korean officer asks for assistance, the general gives the man some rocket launchers. Has America given just a little more than a technological fix to the South Koreans? The film also accurately portrays the reflexive ideologies of both sides – the North Korean officer sneering at the Taegukgi, the use of “reds” as a sobriquet for North Koreans. Soldiers in the ranks of both armies are delightfully buffoonish. I especially liked the sweet potato and grenade combination that fooled a North Korean to grab the morsel without noticing the explosive before it was too late.

The 71 students who defended their school against a North Korean infantry unit embody both the tragedy of a cynical leadership struggle between petty Korean politicians on both ends of the peninsula and some of the most noble qualities of manhood. The student leader struggles with the duty to command and his aversion to kill. A thug befriends students he once despised. A commander tries desperately to rescue the boys he has to leave for slaughter. And, even the hubristic bad guy in the annoying white uniform is brave.

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Filed under: History, Korea, Movies/Media Tagged: 71: into the fire, korean war, t.o.p.


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