Directed by: Ryoo Seung-wan | Produced by: Cho Sung-min | Screenplay by: Ryoo Seung-wan | Starring: Hwang Jung-min, So Ji-sub, Song Joong-ki, Lee Jung-hyun, Kim Su-an | Cinematography: Lee Mo-gae | Edited by: Kim Jae-bum, Kim Sang-bum | Production Company: Filmmaker R&K | Distributed by: CJ Entertainment | Official Website (in Korean)
There are two ways of getting people home from the war according to the latest cinema release: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017) or Ryoo Seung-wan’s The Battleship Island. If Nolan prefers to tell the way of coming home from war in a heroic and touching way, the latter chooses a gory, sometimes unwatchable, way to tell how much people want to get out of war. The Battleship Island is probably a typical Asian war movie that shows us the brutality of war, since we Asians are mostly (yes mostly. I’m not talking to you, Japanese) the victim of the war decisions we never take part of. However, it is the characters that win our heart.
The Battleship Island main story is set at nearly the end of World War II and anchored by sophisticated performances of both Hwang Jung-min (Veteran (2015) and The Wailing (2016)) and Kim Su-an (Train to Busan (2016)), who play a musician single father Lee Gang-ok and his daughter Sohee. Go to Nagasaki to search for a better life, they are sent to Hashima Island to be coal miners, along with several men including street thug Choi Chil-sung (So Ji-sub) and several womem including the brave Oh Mal-nyeon (Lee Jung-hyun). The men are sent to forced labor to coal mine, while the women are sent to comfort house as sex slaves.
In the chaos of forced labor and their sufferings, who could imagine there is one Korean key person Yoon Hak-chul (Lee Kyoung-young) trapped along the coal miners. A Korean Liberation officer named Park Moo-young (Song Joong-ki) is then sent to Hashima to free Yoon. Soon, Park reveals the true face of Yoon and his escape plan shifts into a liberation journey of 400 Koreans who trapped in Hashima Island.
Instead of the historical accuracy of this story, unlike Dunkirk, this story is likely happened since Japan did invade most of Asia in the name of their fascism and in order to win the war over The Allies. At the end credit, we know UNESCO has made Hashima Island as World Heritage Site in 2015 and though Japan refused to reveal the true history of Hashima, a special screening of this movie is held by UNESCO to raise the awareness of what was happened back there. The opinion stated that this movie is raising anti-Japanese sentiment, but in my opinion, this movie tells us perfectly that war can change any heavenly angel into a monster.
Instead of the debatable historical accuracy and so many gory scenes that actually can be found in any thriller Asian movie, this movie entire emotion is anchored by Hwang’s Gang-ok and Kim’s Sohee. As a single father who will do anything to keep her daughter alive, Gang-ok turns from a Japanese speaking musician who will do anything in his favor to a man who moved all Koreans to leave the island. Their chemistry as father and daughter is delightful and it became the ease that fulfill our thirst of emotional touch in a movie like this. The other actors then feel like they were only there to complete the plot, including Song Joong-ki who again plays a soldier after his hit performance at TV Series Descendants of the Sun and So Ji-sub and Lee Jung-hyun’s romance.
As I said before that this movie is a typical Asian war movie that consists of gory scenes and profanity, you should think twice to bring young children watching this. Even if they were crazy about Song Joong-ki.