By Joe Bendel. Kim Jun-shik could have been an Olympic champion marathoner, but the milestones defining his life involve involuntary military service. Impressed into the Imperial Japanese, Soviet, and National Socialist armies, Kim’s journey ultimately brought him to Omaha Beach on D-Day. It is an epic story (rather loosely based historical fact), told with appropriate grit and grandeur in Kang Je-kyu’s My Way (trailer above), which opens this Friday in New York.
Kim could always run fast, and from a young age his fate will be intertwined with that of Tatsuo Hasegawa. The grandson of a high-ranking Japanese officer, Hasegawa quickly becomes Kim’s primary competition on the track. Not surprisingly, the Japanese authorities put the fix in for Hasegawa at the Olympic trials, precipitating a full scale riot among outraged Korean spectators. Forced into the Japanese military as punishment, Kim eventually finds himself serving under Hasegawa, a harsh martinet in the tradition of his grandfather.
Needless to say, the campaign in Mongolia does not go well. Leading his men into a crushing defeat, Hasegawa is captured, along with Kim and several fellow Korean conscripts. Conditions in the Soviet labor camp are unbearably brutal, except for Kim’s friend Jong-dae, who becomes the Communist enforcer amongst the prisoners. Not unexpectedly, he reserves the harshest mistreatment for the Japanese, particularly Hasegawa, which troubles Kim despite their checkered history. When the war temporarily turns against the Soviets, the prisoners are given a grimly illegal choice: summary execution or service on the Eastern Front. Both are essentially death sentences.
Somehow surviving the ensuing carnage, Kim and Hasegawa head west, ready to declare themselves Japanese POWs when they encounter the Germans. Ironically, the conditions of service under the Nazis appear relatively mild compared to their stints with the Soviets and militarist Japanese, at least for a while. However, there are eerie (if unsubtle) parallels between all three militaries that clearly demonstrate the underlying similarities of oppressive regimes.
Like a cross between Saving Private Ryan and Chariots of Fire, My Way is a sprawling chronicle of sport, combat, and statist regimes that employs its flashback structure quite adroitly. There are a number of spectacularly rendered large scale battle scenes (in which it definitely helps to be swift of foot), but the film still packs a real emotional punch, particularly when depicting Kim’s brief relationship with Shirai, a captured Chinese sniper out to avenge her family.
One of the world’s most beautiful women, Fan Bingbing is absolutely heartbreaking as Shirai. Yet, it is Jang Dong-gun and Joe Odagiri who really carry the weight of the picture, as Kim and Hasegawa, respectively. They convincingly portray the two soldiers’ evolution from bitter enemies to stateless brothers-in-arms. On paper, much of their narrative would sound forced, but they make it work on-screen every step of the way.
Audiences should look past the oddly nondescript title, because it is hard to imagine there will be a better war film this year than My Way. Considerably superior to The Front Line, it is a cinematic saga worthy of the 70mm Cinemascope era. Highly recommended, it opens this Friday (4/20) in New York at the AMC Empire, the Beekman Theatre, and the Village East.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 at 3:09pm.
Brad Bird’s fabulous re-launching of the Mission: Impossible series, Ghost Protocol, comes out on Blu-ray/DVD tomorrow. Hopefully some of you got the chance to see that in an IMAX theater – it was quite spectacular. Feel free to order Ghost Protocol below through the LFM Store.
In related spy news, this fall brings the release of Bond 50, the new Blu-ray set commemorating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series – which launched in 1962 with the release of Dr. No. This new Bond 50 set (see the trailer above) features all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray disc in one set for the first time, including nine 007 films never before available on Blu-ray: The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, A View to a Kill, Octopussy, The Living Daylights, Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies. Needless to say, the Sean Connery and Roger Moore films will be the best.
The set also includes more than 130 hours of bonus features – so it should be quite comprehensive. You can pre-order the set above.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 at 3:07pm.
The Soho International Film Festival: LFM Reviews The Small Assassin, Based on Ray Bradbury’s Short Story
By Joe Bendel. Ray Bradbury is cool. His story of infant paranoia first hit the pulps in 1946, decades before Rosemary’s Baby and the subsequent raft of rip-offs. Though mostly likely not supernatural per se, it is definitely a tale of ominous dread, nicely captured in Chris Charles’ faithful short film adaptation of The Small Assassin (trailer here), which screens Monday as part of the 2012 Soho International Film Festival.
Alice Leiber had a rough delivery, culminating with a caesarian section. Exhausted, she is convinced her baby was deliberately trying to kill her. Dr. Jeffers warns her husband David she is still a bit overwrought, but assures him it will pass. Of course, her obsessive terror gets progressively worse instead. Yet there are signs her fears just might be justified. Again, it is important to emphasize Bradbury staked out this territory first – because the smaller, more intimate scale of the Grand Master’s story is arguably more disconcerting than the satanic horror cranked out by Polanski’s imitators. Charles and cinematographer Kevin Moss give it an appropriately moody, noir treatment that is also rather stylish. Indeed, it is quite a handsome production, well appointed with rich post-war, pre-Mad Men period detail. While there might be more is-he-or-isn’t-he ambiguity in the original story, Charles still builds the suspense skillfully. Most importantly, he has a shrewd sense of what to show and what to leave unseen.
A festival circuit road warrior finally arriving in the City, Small Assassin is a well crafted short-form dark thriller that effectively demonstrates the talents of Charles and his filmmaking collaborators, while highlighting the depth and diversity of Bradbury’s literary oeuvre. Recommended without reservation for genre audiences, Assassin screens before a feature tonight (4/16) during the Soho Film Festival (at the Landmark Sunshine) and will be available to a wider national audience later this year through the Shorts International and IndieFlix distribution platforms.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 at 3:05pm.
Some good new promotional teasers are appearing for the forthcoming season of Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies on TNT. Check out this new one above. Hopefully the new show will actually be as good as the promos. Falling Skies has its two-hour, season 2 premiere on Sunday, June 17th.
And the alien invasions just keep coming. Check out the new sci-fi short film Chameleon that’s making the rounds, and also a teaser for the indie film Ombis. (Hat tip to io9 for those shorts.) And if that’s not enough for you, check out this set video of Toronto being transformed into Tokyo for Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming Pacific Rim; plus, you can catch this new video on the creature design for Peter Berg’s Battleship, or watch Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace conduct an interesting, 36-minute discussion of Prometheus at a Paris press conference on April 11th.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 at 3:02pm.
LFM Co-Editor Govindini Murty was on Lars Larson’s national radio show Friday talking about The Lady, The Hunger Games, Cabin in the Woods and Lockout. Special thanks, as always, to Lars and his staff for inviting Govindini on. She always has fun appearing on his show.
Lars’ show is broadcast on over 200 stations nationwide, and runs at different times across the country, so to find his show be sure to check out his website here.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 at 2:59pm.