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Two children Nam-yi and Ja-in are being chased by King Injo's guards and saved by their father Choi Pyeong-ryung, an officer of King Gwanghae and a skilled archer. He sends his own children to find a place of refuge with his best friend Kim Mu-seon. As they escape crying, Ja-in begs her brother to go back to their father but their father is killed in front of Nam-yi. Nam-yi, though bitten by the guard dogs, kills them and escapes with Ja-in. Nam-yi becomes the only family Ja-in has. 13 years later Nam-yi is now a skilled archer and hunter. He learns from Mu-seon's son Seo-goon that he and Ja-in plan to get married, with the approval of Mu-seon who is also Ja-in's godfather. During the wedding, Nam-yi is up in the mountains hunting deer. He hears the rumble of the invading forces. When Nam-yi makes it back to the village, he finds his step-father slaughtered and his sister taken away. Nam-yi then sets out to find the Qing army and take out their army with his bow. Written by
WAR OF THE ARROWS is an excellent historical action flick with a twist: almost all of the action sequences are centred around bowmen facing off. Now, I've always loved archery when it's depicted in films, so I was delighted to read the premise and watch the trailer for this movie. For me, there's something intrinsically exciting about the look and the skill that goes into wielding a bow efficiently; I'd much rather watch a shoot-out staged with bows and arrows than guns. WAR OF THE ARROWS turns out to be just the film for me.
As usual for the Asian historical epic genre of recent years, the film looks great. Director Han-min Kim crafts a great-looking movie that ably matches the finesse of other recent Korean movies known for their style and substance. The cast are fine, giving their all in emotive turns without ever openly overacting. And the action scenes blow you away time and again.
Okay, I'll admit that the first half-hour is a little shaky. The set-up, although exciting, is followed by a slightly dull "get to know the leads" type scenario which drags a lot. Once the plot begins proper, though, it doesn't let up. There are twists and turns galore, plenty of moments of high drama, and then in the second half of the movie things turn into a virtual re-run of the Mel Gibson epic APOCALYPTO. Think a pared-down narrative, small-scale action one versus a group and suspense going through the roof. Yes, it's that good, and even some slightly dodgy CGI doesn't let it down. If only ROBIN HOOD, another recent film about a forest-dwelling archery champion, could have been this good!
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