(Korean with English subtitles) 1953, the Korean war has ended. Most of the country is war-torn and in shambles. Two young boys living in a refugee camp are doing their best living in these... See full summary »
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After a battle between Joseon and Ming forces in Manchuria only three soldiers from Joseon survive. They take refuge in an abandoned inn. Soon it is clear that they have as much to fear from each other as from the Ming forces.
No, this isn't about the US Marine Corps, with the tagline above used in Jarhead. The Unforgiven is a Korean army movie, which I likened in similarity to Jarhead, in that there is no war action. This independent film follows the life of a new recruit, Lee Seung-yeong (Seo Jang-weon), in his journey through the Korean armed forces, and his brotherly relationship forged with his close friend and superior Yu Tae-jung (Ha Jung-woo)
Regimental army life is not something that everyone who has a choice, would want to undergo. You lose your freedom, and life turns for the better or worse depending on what sort of platoon mates you get lumped together with. The basics of army discipline is the following of orders to a T, never question morality, never questioning correctness. So when you are an outspoken chap, and speak your opinion, you are easily shunned from and become what is known as the marked man, i.e. trouble with a capital T.
This movie would have irked the Korean Defense Department, as it didn't portray army life with gusto or is politically correct in its portrayal of life inside the barracks. While you don't expect a 5-star hotel treatment, this film made the internal relationships amongst soldiers look like a bad case of high school ragging, with its seniority based concept of respect (i.e. who's enlisted earlier should be accorded respect), in tandem with the usual rank-pulling. The way the recruits had to recite in a robotic way their rank and name, when called upon, also seemed a little insane. I think many here would go crazy if we shout out our rank-name- IC number each time we're called upon. Then again we shouldn't compare training methods, as they're technically still at war.
Seung-yeong and Tae-jung's friendship is the spotlight of the movie, akin to the latter being a senior and a sergeant, looking out for the former, given that they're already friends before enlistment. While they are fast buddies, many whom Seung-yeong had irked, can't wait for Tae-jung to ORD, so that they can exact their personal vendetta against the outspoken chap. The narrative juxtaposes time without much warning, so you'll have to get used to the style and technique used as we follow the story of these two friends during, and out of the army.
And the difference between the relationship with and without the uniform put on, is explored, and how one would perceive this friendship to be. There are quite a number of gay undertones, which while not explicitly shown, subtly prods you in suggesting that Seung- yeong had a soft spot for Tae-jung, incessantly looking Tae-jung up each time he books out from camp, and his desire in emulating his friend's treatment of him, which he mirrors in his treatment to a junior.
In any case, watching this movie became a drawing of parallels amongst the "injustice" (in quotes here, as it all depends on who's POV anyway) many local males would have experienced in one form or another, and the recalling of memories, good and bad, of army life. Female local audiences might not catch much ball, as the brotherhood love and respect would seem alien.
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