71: Into the Fire (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus watches the battles in this latest Korean war movie from CineAsia
With the focus on the 1950s Korean civil war, 71: Into the Fire follows the 71 student soldiers who are thrown in at the deep end and led by their conflicted Captain Oh Jung-Bum (T.O.P.).
Despite the realistic battles and good balance of action and drama 71: Into the Fire never quite drew me in fully. It’s not the film's fault as it’s a well-made, well-paced movie, but somewhere over the course of the last few years my enjoyment (that’s probably not the right word) of the war genre has lessened and 71 didn’t really bring enough new to the war room to lift my waning interest in all things war.
That said, that’s just me and for fans of the genre there’s plenty to get from it. The mishmash of student soldiers and their changing attitudes to war is very well handled and of course the battle scenes sell the brutality of battle in all its horrific glory. The central performance from T.O.P. (a Korean entertainer judging by Wikipedia) is very strong and his introduction showing us him failing to save his captain was extremely dramatic and was really the key element that kept me interested to see where this all went.
The strongest part for me and as is the case with most war movies, is the emotional elements of when everything is going to shit. In many ways it’s also why I don’t watch war movies too much because all this needless killing and the reminder that wars ain’t pretty just bum me out but 71 handles the heart string tugging stuff like the best of ‘em and when characters we’ve grown to love start falling in some seriously brutally bloody battles you can’t really help but feel a connection to the situation.
Well 71: Into the Fire is one pretty looking DVD. There are great examples of detail, especially in close ups. Blood and dirt really look blasted onto the actors' faces and the gritty visuals of battle counter well the cleaner calmer scenes.
Black levels are solid with the quite stylised colours of the rest of the film making them look even deeper. The green tinge to the visuals can sometimes remind you too hard that this is a modern movie but generally the film has a great classic cinematic feel to it and when the action kicks off, the explosions and debris looks fantastic every time.
Well it’s a war movie. If a 5.1 track doesn’t sound great in a war movie, it’s pretty much a write off. Luckily, 71 does everything right. Loud, dynamic, layered and well thought out. Battles have loads of gunfire, shouting, debris falling everywhere and enough bass to sell those explosions with ease.
Music wise the score sits nice and balanced in the mix and raises its game to pull at your heartstrings at all the rights times and the dialogue is consistently solid. All in all 71 sounds exactly like a good war movie should sound and puts you right in the middle of a war all while selling the drama with as much power.
CineAsia pull no punches and once again offers up a two disc edition. Disc one has the commentary track from experts Bey Logan and Mike Leeder and once again these two come packed with facts about the movie. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time with these two lately and their almost radio shoe-esq manner has actually become quite funny. It’s a great track to listen to really.
Also on disc one is the trailer gallery which has the UK Trailer (02:35) and the Original Trailer (01:57) and of course there's a whole host of other titles available in the ‘Also Available’ section.
Disc two is where the extras shift into high gear. ‘Men of Valour, Personal Reflections on the Korean War' (27:10) keeps to the Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers tradition and has real Korean War soldiers telling their stories and it’s about as melancholy as you’d expect.
‘Into the Fire’ (20:23) is the making of, which is a fairly straight forward interviews spliced with on-set footage affair and ‘Behind the Scenes’ (07:30) adds to that with more on set footage.
‘Pre-Production’ (08:17) has the director giving his insight into the journey to making the movie and ‘Production Design’ (09:39) carries that on with a closer look at the style of the film from make up to costume and the battles.
‘Student Soldier: Trainees From the Korean War’ (08:16) features more stories from the real soldiers.
‘The Poster: Making of’ (06:19) shows weird cam footage of the shots taken for the posters without much in the way of detail and ‘Press and Premier Interviews' (05:11) has the usual premiere footage to show the movies launch. Lastly there’s the ‘Showcase’ (05:01) which features more from the release of the film and the girls going wild for T.O.P.
71: Into the Fire is a war movie that sells the emotional struggles of war as much as it does the physical ones. It keeps a firm hold of the characters and holds them in the centre of the story without giving way to the bigger picture too much and really that makes the larger battles a whole lot more personal and makes the movie much more akin to Saving Private Ryan as it progresses (never a bad thing).
The disc is very strong in both audio and video departments and this two disc CineAsia release is their usual high standard in terms of extras too.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 14th March 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Korean
Extras: Commentary, Documentaies, Featurettes, Premier footage, Trailers,
Easter Egg: No
Director: John H. Lee
Cast: T.O.P, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Seung-woo
Genre: Drama and War
Length: 115 minutes
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