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Overcome the Wind
War of the Arrows with Park Hae-Il and Ryu Seung-Ryong
© 2013 James LaFond
Set in 1623 in Korea, War of the Arrow is one of the best chase movies I have seen. That’s right, with no cars, and sometimes without horses. The cinematography is beautiful, and the action well thought out, if sometimes over the top. This movie is subtitled. But the acting is so good you don’t need the subtitles half the time.
This is not a typical revenge adventure, although vengeance figures into the plot. War of the Arrows is about saving your family. The story focuses on a brother and sister, whose father was branded a traitor and killed by order of a corrupt king who sold out to the Manchurians. The bulk of the tale focuses on a Manchurian raid over the Yalu into Korea, and those who resist it.
There are a few rare qualities to this movie that set it above the typical high budget Hollywood offering.
The bad guys are badasses, not the weak gang of faceless goons of American cinema. The Manchurians are depicted as formidable combatants throughout. Never does the viewer feel like the protagonists are out of danger.
The badass badguys are portrayed as real thinking, feeling characters, with genuine concern for their honor and the well-being of their comrades. Where American cinema must have a diabolically witty or horrifically malicious villain, War of the Arrows, is fueled by something more chilling, ruthlessly efficient warriors after your ass! This element of peril is up there with Last of the Mohicans, and only falls short of Aliens, because, well, the Manchurians are human.
The element I liked the most about War of the Arrows is that there is no promise of a happy ending, and that is clear throughout. The viewer is made to understand that they may well have to be satisfied with the small triumphs of a doomed struggle.
And let us not forget the archery. War of the Arrows has the intensity of The Searchers and the pace of a Jason Statham movie without firearms or vehicles.
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