Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"My Way" tells the tale of two young men who grew up as rivals due to their different social standings but similar interests. Kim Joon-sik (Jang Dong-gun) is a Korean who dreams of following in the footsteps of Olympic marathon gold medal winner Sohn Kee-chung but working for Tatsuo Hasegawa's (Joe Odagiri) family as a servant, while the latter aims to be the top Japanese marathon runner. When a failed assassination attempt resulted in the death of Tatsuo's grandfather and the master of the house, the two become bitter enemies. Their rivalry never relents despite crossing paths countless of times after, first in the marathon, next in battle, starting from Nomonhan, stretching from China, the Soviet Union and Germany, with Joon-sik as a conscripted soldier and Tatsuo the captain for the Japanese Imperial Army. Contrary to the marketing for the film and the trailers, the film is hardly about two friends, rather, it depicts how two men eventually come to terms with their differences and forge a friendship.
The war drama is Kang Je-gyu's first film after a seven-year hiatus following his last war film "Taegukgi", and the question becomes: is it worth waiting for or is it a rehash of the former? As opposed to the award-winning "Taegukgi", the material seems designed to play well outside the incoming tide of Korean wave. As if the international aspirations are not obvious enough, the cast consists of Korean heartthrob Jang Dong-gun, Japan's "Johnny Depp" Joe Odagiri and Chinese darling Fan Bingbing. That said, it is still a thoroughly gripping war drama, albeit cliched.
It is clear that Kang Je-gyu put a lot of thought into the film, as even the opening scene itself bears the weight of the ending. This is as much character study as action, where we are introduced to the two leads when they were adolescents. The characters start out as two-dimensional, and although it is sad to say that they never really took on a more three-dimensional form as the film progresses, they are still likable people that we root for till the end. There is the sturdy and good-looking Joon-sik who tries to do right by everyone and protect his friends from the harshness of war, and Tatsuo, a man embittered by the death of his grandfather but becomes humbled by the war and Joon-sik's actions. We see how two very different men deal with the situations they are thrown in, and for a while, the film verges on becoming a war melodrama for the masochistic, what time one tragedy after another, but thank god it steers clear of the usual cliches and righteous preaching that usually comes with films of this nature such as Tatsuo sudden development of a conscience or drawn out deaths where the dying gets to say a lifetime's worth of regrets and advice. In the midst of the explosions, there is still subtlety to be found.
For those who are worried about the two hour long film, rest assured that the action and drama never lets up long enough for you to catch your breath. The fast-paced and occasionally shaky cinematography work in tandem towards providing a mediated experience of being at war first hand with ground shots, out of focus views, in-the-face bomb blasts and blood splatters. It is unflinching and brutal, but more forgiving than "Taegukgi" with brief moments of respite juxtaposed in between. We are also taken across countries, from China, the Soviet Union and Germany, with scenery ranging from Seoul, to the dirt-filled war-torn area then heads out to the cold hostile mountains before settling in a peaceful-seeming fort at Normandy. The soundtrack is also of the decent, stereotypical fare, with music that crescendos as the action build and softer music for the more dramatic moments.
As a whole, "My Way" is a heavy war drama, in theme and cliches, which tests the boundaries of one's stomach for war. It is a sure thing that by the end, we cringe as the two leads are plunged into yet another war, eagerly waiting for the glimmer of hope at the end of the dark tunnel we have been tossed in, yet dreading that the end not be the end that we hoped for. The film is also helped along by the two strong, charismatic lead performances and a great deal of style.Cinema Online, 04 April 2012