Historical films are quite common in Korea, but they must be of a certain caliber in order to grab the audience’s attention. “Warriors of the Dawn,” a historical action-drama film from Fox International Productions, does just that with its wonderful cast of characters and compelling story of living life as someone else’s proxy.
A dramatization of true events, “Warriors of the Dawn” takes place during the 1592 Japanese Invasion of Korea. Directed by Jung Yoon Chul (“A Man Who Was Superman”), it tells the poignant story of a group of proxy soldiers tasked with protecting the Korean Crown Prince Gwanghae on his journey to Ganggye, where he must rally together volunteer soldiers to fight the Japanese.
In of the main roles, we have highly acclaimed actor Lee Jung Jae playing the role of To Woo, leader of a group of proxy soldiers. Early in the film, we see To Woo demonstrate his leadership in the role of mentor to a presumably teenage boy who has been dragged to serve as a proxy soldier in his deceased father’s place, which wonderfully parallels his later relationship with the Crown Prince. In the role of Crown Prince Gwanghae, we have the talented actor Yeo Jin Goo. Widely loved as an actor since his early childhood acting days, he once again gives a great performance. Kim Moo Yeol rounds out the principal cast as Gok Soo, a highly skilled proxy soldier.
The film begins with a scene in a field where we meet one of the main characters, To Woo. We are immediately thrown into battle as To Woo and the proxy soldiers fight against a group of Jurchens as the Korean military noticeably just watches from a distance. Though against the law, it was a common practice for poor men to fight in the military in place of powerful and rich men in order to support their families. The proxy soldiers are treated like second class citizens by the military men, who look down on them due to their lower social class.
Following the scenes with the proxy soldiers, the film transitions into the introduction of King Seonjo. The King tells his court that he has decided to flee to the Ming Empire due to the Japanese invasion. The court is concerned about leaving the country without leadership, so the King decides to make a branch court and select an interim ruler in his absence. He hurriedly appoints young Prince Gwanghae as Crown Prince and interim King. The Crown Prince is to set forth to Ganggye to rally together volunteer soldiers to fight the invading Japanese army. The Crown Prince, inexperienced and frightened, pleads with the King to reconsider his decision, but his words have no effect. Left with no choice, the Crown Prince, accompanied by To Woo’s group of proxy soldiers, a few military men and his court, sets off on his journey.
The Japanese hear of King Seonjo’s escape and set their sights on Crown Prince Gwanghae. In order to gain an advantage against the enemy, the group takes a mountainous route instead of roads, which would leave them defenseless against an attack. Trouble brews early on between the group as Yang Sa (Bae Soo Bin), a loyal subject, insists the Crown Prince be transported in his palanquin despite the rough course. We also meet Duk Yi (Esom), a palace maid who shares an endearing relationship with the Crown Prince. She listens to his woes and humbly offers the Crown Prince words of encouragement and guidance. Even with subjects like Yang Sa and Duk Yi at his side, the Crown Prince endures a lot of emotional struggles on the journey, in addition to the physical dangers he is met with.
“Warriors of the Dawn,” though worth the watch, could have been great instead of just good, especially considering the cast and the powerful source material. The actors give praise worthy performances, which is particularly showcased in a scene between To Woo (Lee Jung Jae), Crown Prince Gwanghae (Yeo Jin Goo) and Gok Soo (Kim Moo Yeol). The way in which each actor conveys their character’s sorrow brings about a charged scene and is the film’s best moment.
The filming style, though acceptable, did not do much to elevate the story and is the primary point where the film under delivers. Scenes that scanned a group of people with the obvious intent of capturing their despair in the end passed by too quickly. As a film that takes place largely on a mountainous route, the natural surrounding could have been utilized more efficiently to improve the visualization of the film. The most visually stunning moment, which were few and far between, is perhaps a scene where a character jumps into a river with an important flag of two dragons against a yellow background. While underwater, he looks up and sees rays of sunlight illuminating the flag. Though the scene is simple and short, it comes to mind easily due to its visual impact.
Overall, “Warriors of the Dawn” is a good film that tells an important story and has compelling characters.
Check out the trailer below, then let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Papillon8689 has been a Kpop fan since 2009. In her spare time, she enjoys watching Kdramas, kfilms and more Kdramas. She enjoys music from various Kpop groups though Super Junior is her number one!
Media: Fox International Productions