Saturday, August 27, 2011

Movie Review: Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

Now I have to tell you, I hate war movies. Or war overall. I hate war. I'm totally against the concept, the idea of war. Whatever the reason for war I never agree with. I hate the blood, I hate the fights, I hate the selfishness, I hate everything about it. Especially the blood and piling corpses. Which automatically leaves me hating war movies. I just don't have the heart, or stomach, for it.

That's why I approached Welcome to Dongmakgol cautiously. Even though they say the movie is lighter than a usual war movie, I'm still cautious. It's still a war movie, after all. It doesn't matter if the kids were magically transported into another land like a certain movie with a certain talking lion. Narnia, people.  It's still in a time of war. And a movie that is about war, though a lighter version of it, is still war.

Welcome to Dongmakgol is a South Korean movie made in 2005. It's directed by Park Gwang-hyun and stars Jung Jae-young, Shin Ha-gyu, and Kang Hye-jung to name a few. The setting was September 1950, amidst the Korean War. This war separated the Korean peninsula into two countries, the communist North and the republic South. The story starts out with a fighter plane piloted by a Westerner, probably American. The plane was perhaps shot and was diving without control. Coincidentally a butterfly, or moth?, went through the window before the plane crashed into a boulder.

In another scene, a troop (the Northerners) was marching down and can barely survive. Its commander, played by Jung, is kind of a sissy. He hesitated in allowing his wounded soldiers to continue on battle. But, whoops, he was too late. The enemy killed off his troop, leaving just Commander Lee and three other soldiers. The four men then went off to continue on their journey. While crossing a cliff, one soldier fell off the cliff. The three survivors then came upon a ditsy girl named Yeo-il, played by Kang, and they decided to follow her suit.

Meanwhile a man from the Medics, played by Seo Jae-gyung,  from the Southern army was out in a forest somewhere. He was tired, looked around and found it was safe, and decided to have a little snack. He then spotted Second Commander Pyo, played by Shin, who was about to literally kill himself. Medics man, later named Moon, tried to stop him. They then set out to find an ally's headquarter.

The six men then encounter each other in a secluded village named Dongmakgol. The men, who are from opposite sides, became furious of each others company. One of the many hilarious scenes is when the villagers were caught in between the two sides (two Southerners and three Northerners) but because they were so isolated, they didn't have a concept of guns or grenades. The two sides stood with open arms day and night. The villagers, not knowing what was going on, left the five men standing there and kept on with their daily business. The Northerners then didn't have any bullets with them so they held their grenades. Yeo-il then came up to the youngest soldier, played by Ryu Deok-hwan, and took his "ring" which was of course the detonator of the grenade. Everyone panicked, well, at least the six men and a scholar of sorts of the village. Turns out it was a dead grenade? Think again. When Pyo threw the grenade to the stock house, it blew up! The five men, and the injured American, decided to stay on until they re-stocked again.

One thing I love about this movie is that three different sides of this war came together in the humble village of Dongmakgol. Even though they hated each other in the beginning and the lack of understanding (both ideal and communication wise) they still ended up being the best of buds. They also bonded with the villagers who also thought of them as family. I can't really tell the whole story. It'll take millions of words, but it's just such a great movie with great morals.

Alas I still hated the war part. In the end of the movie, the five Korean men had to fight to ward off the Americans from attacking Dongmakgol, which they thought were the headquarter for the enemies. But even then it was very heart warming when the men put aside their differences and fought together. I think this movie meant a lot to the Koreans who have always wanted the unification of the North and South ever since that tragic war. One line which, I propose, will make all Koreans cry is when Second Commander Pyo (was it him of Commander Lee?) said "We are allies! We're the Allies of Korea! The North and South fighting together." or something like that. Aw...? I bet the Korean people were bawling at that scene. No, I didn't cry. The concept of war turns me off. But it was touching.

The ending was so sad and touching. After witnessing two of their friends, Medics Moon and his new found older bro (not genetically, just you know like "You're my bro!" thing), killed, the remaining three were sort of flabbergasted. They have all the odds against them. One or two planes down is cool and all, but what about the remaining dozen? As the bombs were fired down on them, the two commanders who can't seem to find common ground during their stay in Dongmakgol smiled at each other. The scene was then switched to Captain Smith (the American, yes, original name. I know.) was seen hiking back to Dongmakgol just bawling. The scene was later switched to the villagers who was watching a spectacular light show, unbeknownst to them that their new found family was going to be among the ruble.

There's actually quite a lot of very touching scenes. But one of them is also very quintessential and funny all at the same time. It was the scene when the two/three? sides realized that hey what the heck, we're in this lovely little village, let's just make amends. And voila! They became somewhat best friends after that, with each other and the villagers. The scene is called the Boar Scene, at least that's what I'm going to call it, and you should watch it with your own eyes to enjoy it to its fullest. It's just hilarious. Slow-mo at its best.

Out of a 10, I'd give this movie a generous 8. It's a great movie with good values that can be learned. Amazing cinematography, crisp editing, great directing, and of course the acting was spot on. Points are missing because it's not culturally general and the fact that at the end of it all it's still a war movie. But if you can, watch this movie. It really is great.

Final verdict: 8/10


  1. I have stayed away from this movie for the same reason - war. I'm not saying that I dislike all war movies, but there are only a small amount I would be willing to watch.
    But I have heard good things about this one and the story does have an interesting take. Perhaps it's time for me to check it out.

    1. I realized this movie is mostly a war-setting movie instead of a full on war movie. I definitely recommend this movie on the most part. I also realized there's a few spoilers in there! So I apologize if you don't like spoilers, but I think my review shouldn't stop the overall enjoyment of the movie.

      And thank you for stopping by :D