Singapore, 23 October – This year’s theme for the highly-anticipated Korean Film Festival in Singapore was ‘Simply the Top Ten Most Recent Korean Films for You’. True to their word, the organizers brought in the latest, hottest and freshest films from the world of Korean cinema. The festival officially opened at Shaw Theatres Lido with naval thriller Northern Limit Line (연평해전), based on the real-life events of the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong.
The Northern Limit Line is an informal maritime boundary near Yeonpyeong Island and divides the territorial waters of North and South Korea. The year is 2002, and South Korea is caught in a frenzy as the national soccer team enters the play-offs and fights for 3rd place against Turkey in the World Cup. In the midst of this distraction, a North Korean patrol boat prepares for ambush, breaches the Northern Limit Line, and a naval battle begins.
Some of the South Korean ship crew in the thick of the action include newbie medic Park Dong-hyuk (played by Lee Hyun-woo) and ship helmsman Sergeant Han (Jin Goo). Kim Moo-yeol also stars as the stern, no-nonsense Commander Yoon. The scenes involving interaction between the crew members were injected with comedy and there was definitely a fair amount of bromance between Dong-hyuk and Sergeant Han, who was like a ‘big brother’ to the crew and frequently looked out for the friendly young medic.
The second half of the film then takes a dark turn to the lengthy and graphic battle at sea, where bloody chaos ensued with gunfire from both sides. Our heroes fight valiantly, but many of the crew tragically perish in the fight. Before his death, Commander Yoon remains the responsible leader till the end – commanding Sergeant Han to bring his men to safety. Sergeant Han is a hero in his own right; despite being shot multiple times, he ties himself to the steering wheel to make sure the boat stays on course. Dong-hyuk is rescued and awaits news in critical condition at the hospital, but ultimately succumbs to his injuries and passes on.
The film fleshed out the main characters with quite a bit of depth by introducing us to their backgrounds and families, allowing the audience to develop understanding and affection for them. There was probably not a dry eye in the theatre after all the deaths of our beloved crew members. I felt that there was also a very poignant sense of realism to the entire film, as the battle scenes included an ample amount of bloodshed and gore. The way the crew acted and spoke to each other was also well-portrayed – full of camaraderie with the coarse and rough language of sailors. Despite the propagandistic nature of the movie, Northern Limit Line was nevertheless an extremely moving and engaging insight into the little-known Battle of Yeonpyeong.
Runtime: 130 minutes
Northern Limit Line screening times:
- Singapore – 1 November, 6:50pm
For the full screening schedule and ticketing information, visit http://www.koreanfilmfestivalsg.com/!