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The story of Jangsari Landing Operation, 772 student soldiers - whose average age was 17 and who received just 2 weeks of boot camp training - were tossed into Korean War effort in order to pave the way for Incheon Landing Operation, which turned the tide of war.Written by
I said in 2019 that "The Wailing" was the eighth film in my life I was giving the title of masterpiece too. At the time I didn't expect to think of another film in the same way for at least a good few months - perhaps seven or eight - but here we are. I finished "The Battle of Jangsari" and it took me three hours to be able to sit and write a review.
This film essentially broke me. I rejoiced, I cheered and then I cried - very hard - for half an hour. I was emotionally numb after this film to the point I literally just laid down and cried, it was all I could do.
This film is a masterpiece.
The acting, the cinematography, the editing, everything about this was just stunning. Honestly, it takes me by surprise I'm saying that - war films aren't my forte, and I think the only one I've really seen is "Hacksaw Ridge" after the recognition and attention it received during the awards season.
There are two particular things I can think of that made this film just slightly more stellar and which piqued my interest:
1) The contrasts between the student soldiers and the more advanced, trained soldiers. There are numerous times where we see the student soldiers having a bit of a laugh and not taking things 100% seriously when they have down time - this is contrasted against seeing the more seasoned soldiers having a laugh but still being very on guard, cautious and taking things a little more seriously. This was... painful. It was such a clever trick on the directors' part to remind us that these are children - the Jangsari soldiers were made up of 15, 16, 17 with reports of even 14 year olds being present on the beach. It's painful, and it is such a well done small trick of the camera that just made my heart bleed.
2) At a few points in this film, the camera technique makes everything very disorientated during battles. The camera jerks as if it's dodging a bullet or the butt of a gun, we can't see through the fog, marring our views and we feel all round a little overwhelmed with the added sound editing of screaming and explosions. Usually, I would complain about a technique like this as they make me feel quite motion sick - "Jangsari" does this in a way that makes us feel like we're on the field with these soldiers, not just viewing a movie as the scenes play out. I've never really seen this trick done in a way that doesn't make me feel dizzy - with the added reasoning of not getting motion sick during these sequences, these scenes were absolutely stunning.
All of the cast played their roles with such respect and with such grace that it was hard not to see them as the actual people they're representing. There were times I had to pause to sit and sniff and wipe my tears and remind myself 'this is just acting'. I have such high respect for all the actors involved that created this stunning piece.
The final ten minutes were so beautifully stressful; I was stressed, I was panicked, but in the safety of my own home with no reason to be stressed or panicked - another brilliant job by Kwak Kyung Taek. The ending on Jangsari - not the full ending of the film - was utterly stunning, beautiful, and found me pausing to sit and cry.
I will say, my rewatch value is rated lower because, personally, I can't see myself watching this again. It's so emotional, it really hurt - I cried so hard, my dog had a panic attack trying to figure out what's wrong - and I think a lot of the scenes would also have less enthusiasm a second time around.
All round, emotional, heart breaking but still so somewhat cheerful that really made me sit and think, "Jangsari" is my second film of 2020, but already I'm not entirely sure that something could beat it. A true masterpiece; half the actors have gained me as a fan and Kyung Taek has got my eyes focused on him and his films for a long while.
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