After having watched the Korean movie The Warrior for the second time the other night and talking about them to a friend, I decided to write up some quick reviews about some of the ones I've scene. Just a warning, there are some slight spoilers, although nothing major (I'll embolden my spoilers, okay?).
Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)
One of the best films I have ever seen, this movie deals with the Korean War from the point of view of two young South Korean brothers.
The movie does not shy away from showing intense battle scenes with equally intense violence. In one scene, a man gets shot in the stomach, then accidentally steps on a mine. Several close shots of his stomach with the spilling innards are shown as he lies on the operating table, writing and screaming. In other scenes, men have their eyes clawed out, one has his skull bashed in with a brick (the camera lingers), and all sorts of nasty ways to die. One man shoots himself in the chin with a rifle, blowing the top of his skull off (a brief shot of a pool of blood and his scattered brains is shown). Men are shot, stabbed, blown apart, punched, and everything in between in the usual war film style. (If you're looking for an violence indicator here, think Saving Private Ryan.)
I found this to make the film more realistic so would count it as a positive thing overall, although this may turn some away. Some scenes are disturbing due to content; no sex or nudity at all, but some war crimes are shown for effect. The main characters are extremeley flawed, and more or less make great sins, however the film does not place their actions in a favorable light.
One of the saddest movies I've ever seen, if you cry in movies, you'll cry in this one. I would recommend this one all the way, but it's not exactly "fun" to watch; a combination of violence, sad events and more or less disturbing sequences make this something that's not quite popcorn entertainment; they make it something better.
With superb acting (especially South Korean heartthrob Jang Dong-Gun as older brother Lee Jin-tae), a beautiful score, unsurpassed action sequences, and great out-of-the-box directing by Kang Je-Gyu, this one's a keeper.
Another film by Kang Je-Gyu, this one centers around the story of a South Korean secret agent and his partner struggling to crack a puzzling case dealing with a female North Korean assassin. Another very very good but very very sad movie, this one also was very well made and has a few good action scenes in it. Basically a spy drama with North/South tensions. (Don't be turned away by the cover, showing a rather scantily clad lady; the film has no sex or nudity. A scene of kissing is shown as a couple lay side by side, and at one point [SPOILER!] we learn that the same couple apparently had relations before they were married as the woman is pregnant without the knowledge of her fiance, but this is never even shown.)
The Warrior (2001)
A fun but long movie about Korean envoys to Ming China who are unlucky to find that the Ming consider them as untrustworthy at best, and eventually they find themselves alone in the vast desert. Without revealing too much of the plot, I'll say that basically the rest of the movie deals with the Koreans having to constantly battle some very determined Mongol warriors as they try to make it to safety. [SPOILER!] (It's a Ming princess they have to rescue so that they can get in good with the Ming again after being in the doghouse, okay?) Yeo-so, one of the main characters, is worth the entire movie (you should see his weapon; it's amazing). One of my favorite parts of the film is when [SPOILER!] General Choi, realizing that he is going to die, says, "I've dreamed of an honorable death. I couldn't ask for anything else." He then goes and fights until he meets his death. ...beautiful.
Some really good battle scenes round this movie out (it also had some really good music, but also some of the music I really really disliked). Not the greatest movie ever (several characters make some poor decisions, it's a little long and mostly all the same from beginning to end, etc.), but surely a good one.
2009: Lost Memories (2002)
A movie with great potential that started out good but ended much worse. Not overly terrible perse, but I was still very dissappointed. We get a great beginning (the movie is alternative history, where Japan won the Second World War and still controls Korea) with Japanese police fighting these guys who basically amount to Korean terrorists. [SPOILER!] At first disliking the main characters being on the Japanese side I could tolerate it as the Korean group they were fighting were not to my taste. (Sort of like the IRA and England; you might not agree with England's actions and you might wholeheartedly side with Ireland as I do, but the IRA is the enemy, plain an simple.) Then, eventually our hero defects to the Korean side and we get a bunch of stuff about time travel, all made possible by some ancient stone artifact (a spiritual element to the film, though not precisely explained, that I did not appreciate). Oh well, with Tae Guk Gi's Jang Dong-gun we at least get some superb acting again.
Joint Security Area (2002)
I didn't really like this one. A movie with the story primarily made up of flashbacks, it's about some North and South Korean guards at the DMZ becoming friends as a group and visiting each other often. Soon their bodies are discovered, and investigators must discover exactly what happened. Not very interesting.
Well, I've got three movies I would recommend in here. (The only other Korea movie I've seen, Yuryeong, I stopped watching in the beginning due to a nude scene.) Check them out!