For avid moviegoers, Korea has a beautiful, new film that is sure to please the eye, as well as cast light on an important era of Korean history.
Directed and written by Hwang Dong Hyuk (“Silenced,” “Miss Granny”), “The Fortress” is based on Kim Hoon’s historical novel “Namhansanseong” (남한산성), which chronicles the final stand-off between the Joseon dynasty’s King In Jo and the Qing dynasty forces during the second Manchu invasion of Joseon in 1636.
Currently allied to the Han Chinese Ming dynasty, King In Jo (Park Hae Il) and his court have sought refuge in the mountain fortress city of Namhansanseong. However, the king and his soldiers are grossly outnumbered by the besieging Manchu army and are starving and freezing due to lack of supplies.
Passionately urged by his advisor Choi Myeong Gil (Lee Byung Hun) to parley and come to terms with the Qing leader, King In Jo is torn by the opposing opinions of his other prime ministers, including the Minister of Rites, Kim Sang Heon (Kim Yoon Seok). The argument essentially boils down to this: do you save the lives of your remaining people by capitulating or do you save national pride by fighting to the death?
Shot on location in the snowy winter months, the film is truly beautiful to the eye and effectively scored by Ryuichi Sakamoto (“Last Emperor,” “The Revenant”). Plumes of steam escaping from talking mouths evidenced the miserable and harsh conditions that the poorly equipped, conscripted villagers suffered. The few battle scenes in the movie were impressively large-scale and well choreographed. Ultimately, however, the onscreen war was mostly a war of words.
One thing that may frustrate viewers is that little else happens but the ongoing debate over whether the king should give in to the Qing demands or not. As a man torn between his two most trustworthy advisors, this King’s inner conflict deepens as he searches for the right course to take, carefully considering how his decision will affect the future generations of his people.
Clocking in at two hours and 19 minutes, the final lesson delivered by the film is not about surviving an invasion inasmuch as it’s about surviving the nationalistic pride of the privileged ruling class. Overall, “The Fortress” is a solid film with admirable performances from its veteran cast and is definitely worth seeing.
The film is being distributed in North America in connection with OnDemandKorea and is currently being played in almost 30 different theaters around the U.S. and Canada. For a full list of theaters, click here.
Will you be going to see this new film from Korea? Let us know in the comment section below!
Born in Seoul and raised in SoCal, Em Cee Squared got into kdramas and kpop as an extra curricular homework exercise for the Korean classes she was taking to fulfill her long desired goal of communicating better with her Korean-speaking family members. Makeup artist by trade, she lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their Maltese furbaby, Bubba. You can usually catch her trying to attend as many kpop shows in North America as humanly possible
Media: CJ Entertanment