Shiri (1999)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama














Shiri (Swiri) by director Je-kyu Kang is one of the most recognizable South Korean movies from past decade. It was one of the first big budgeted blockbusters produced in South Korea in late 90's and immediate hit in box office, domestic and abroad. Borrowing production values from Hollywood and action from popular Hong Kong movies, it's a vigilant mix of both. A movie that dethroned Cameron's mighty Titanic from it's position of most viewed movie in Korea.

South Korean Intelligence agency comes into possession of information that North's spy's, sleeper agents, are trying to acquire recently discovered liquid explosive CTX. As CTX is undetectable by any known methods, South is afraid that it will be used in terror acts by North Korea to destabilize situation in region.

As two of top agents Jong Won Yu (Suk-kyu Han) and Jang-gil Lee (Kang-ho Song) are investigating this matter, it appears that the enemy is always one step ahead, and suspicions arouse among them of possible mole inside the agency.

Star filled superspy thriller in best traditions of it's time, spectacular firefights using tremendous weapon arsenal, spy intrigues, chases and SWAT teams. All of it on the screen, most of the time.


Director Je-kyu Kang like in his next, famous war movie Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War likes to hint at closeness of both Korean nations, even tho they are enemies, in short breaks between violent fighting, he adds a dramatic layer to it, showing that divide is artificial, and on human level, relationships are possible between the two. Moreover, the movie name itself, Shiri, strongly confirms directors opinions, in a monologue by one of the characters in the movie, it explains that Swiri is a fish, that lives in rivers that flow across the Korea, and the fish doesn't know of South or North, it just swims in a water.

If you judge the movies by cast, finest to this day actors Kang-ho Song and Min-sik Choi, beautiful Yunjin Kim, best known in west for her role in popular TV show Lost, will guarantee that you won't be dissapointed.

Splendid spy action thriller, that won't let you get bored. Good dose of action and drama. Recommended.

DVD from Amazon

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)

Genre: Action, Drama, War














In the end of 2003 Silmido, a movie about South and North relationships, shook the South Korean box office, but not giving it even a few month of rest, another bomb was dropped upon South Korean viewers in early 2004, Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo), similarly themed film, directed by Je-kyu Kang of his Shiri fame, that beat all the prior set records. One third of South Korea population attended cinema to watch this film according to number of admissions.

It's 1950, two brothers, Jin-seok Lee (Bin Won) and eldest Jin-tae Lee (Dong-gun Jang) are spending ordinary time in streets of Seoul, living together with their mother and fiance of Jin-tae - Young-shin Kim (Eun-ju Lee). Peaceful life ends when North invades, and family is forced to leave their homes. Due to some unlucky circumstances both brothers found themselves on a train that's heading towards the battlefield. Cruel realities of war now become part of them.

Revisiting events set almost exactly 50 years in past, director managed to grab attention of Korean public with this epic war drama. Often called Korean Saving Private Ryan, and not without a reason, they both share that gruesome depiction of war, cruelty served by both sides and magnitude in which the scale of the war is portrayed, be it special effects or actor performances. Even the visual styles of the movie are really similar.
But most importantly they share similar, personal stories of the people involved. Comparable even in the way it is presented in the movie, starting with nowadays, showing survivors who share their memories and tell their stories, followed by dive in the past, where these memories are being replayed.

Films original Korean titles contains the names of flags of both neighboring countries, as a symbolic gesture towards their once shared unity.

Its should be mentioned that this movie is one of the final works of beautiful and talented actress Eun-ju Lee, who sadly committed suicide year after this film was released.

Overall, a powerful and emotionally lasting war drama. Highly recommended.

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DVD from YesAsia