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My Way (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 23, 2012 by  



“My Way” is a must-see Korean film that captures the human spirit, to never give up hope and that even amidst the chaos of war, hope continues to thrive and persist.  Another amazing film directed and written by filmmaker Kang Je-kyu and wonderfully acted by Jang Dong-gun and Jo Odagiri. “My Way” on a Blu-ray is a must-own release for fans of Asian cinema.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 CJ E&M Corporation & SK Planet. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: My Way (Mai Wei)

FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 143 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 Widescreen, Stereo/5.1 HD Surround Sound

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: R (Realistic Graphic Scenes of War and Violence)

Release Date: July 24, 2012

Written and Directed by Je-gyu Kang

Screenplay by Byung-in Kim

Produced by Je-kyu Kang, Yong-hwa Kim

Line Producer: Tomas Makaras, Ming-gyu Son

Music by Dong-jun Lee

Cinematography by Mo-gae Lee

Edited by Gok-ji Park

Production Design by Geun-hyun Cho

Costume Design by Jong-won Kim

Starring:

Dong-gun Jan as Jun-shik Kim

Jo Odagiri as Tatsuo Hasegawa

Bingbing Fan as Shirai

In-kwon Kim

Inspired by a true story. Jun Shik works for Tatsuo’s grandfather’s farm while Korea is colonized by Japan, but he has a dream to participate in Tokyo Olympics as a marathon runner. Tatsuo also aims to become a marathon runner, so the two are in rivalry. But war breaks out and they both are forced to enlist in the army. Tatsuo becomes the head of defense in Jun Shik’s unit and he devises a scheme but fails. Jun Shik and Tatsuo are captured by the Soviets. They run away but soon are captured by Germans and forced to separate. In 1944, they meet again at the shores of Normandy.

In Korea, it’s common to watch the large scale epics, may it be an action drama of traditional Korea to the tensions of South and North Korea.  But in 2011, filmmaker and writer Kang Je-Kyu (“Shiri”, “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War”, “Gameui Beobjig”) began to work on his latest big budget film “My Way”.

A film inspired by the photo and story of Kyoungjong Yang, captured by Americans in Normandy in 1944 during World War II, the Korean soldier was found dressed in a German uniform, but what surprised people is that he served for the Imperial Japanese Army, the Russian and German military.  How is this possible?  How would have life been for Yang?

So, Kang Je-Kyu would go to work on what would become one of the most expensive Korean film of all time.  Not only would it star Korea’s Jang Dong-gun (“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War”, “The Promise”, “The Coast Guard”) but it would also star Japanese star Jo Odagiri (“Shinobi: Heart Under Blade”, “Bright Future”, “Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me, and Sometimes Dad”) and Chinese star Bingbing Fan (“Battle of the Warriors”, “Flash Point”, “Shaolin”).

The scope of the war would lead the characters beginning with Japanese-occupied Korea, the Mongolian border, the Soviet Union, Germany and Normandy, France.  And because of the film’s budget and wider focus, the battle scenes are more detailed, more vast (and suffice to say, looking more expensive) than any Korean film ever made.

And now, “My Way” will be released on Blu-ray in July 2012 courtesy  of Well Go USA.

The film is set in 1928, Korea has now been occupied by Japan and a young Tatsuo Hasegawa has arrived with his family to stay with Tatsuo’s grandfather (as portrayed by Natsuyagi Isao), a high ranking Japanese military officer.  That day, young Tatsuo meets a young Jun-Shik Kim, a young boy who loves to run, along with his father (as portrayed by Cheon Ho-Jin) and his younger sister Eun-Soo, who are servants to Tatsuo’s grandfather.

Fast forward to when Jun-Shik Kim and Tatsuo Hasegawa are teenagers.  Both are constantly competing in racing competitions in which both tend to get 1st or 2nd place, and it fuels their competitive nature.

One day, Tatsuo had won a race against Jun-Shik Kim and is being celebrated with a party.  A package comes in for Tatsuo’s grandfather and thinking it’s a Korean present given to celebrate Tatsuo’s big win, he has his grandson open it.  But it turns out to be a bomb created by a Korean terrorist.

Tatsuo’s grandfather grabs the bomb and sacrifices his life to save his grandson and Tatsuo blames Kim’s father for killing his grandfather. The Kim’s are kicked out of the Hasegawa home, his father is beaten and tortured and Tatsuo gives his former friend and rival a stern warning, get near him…he will kill them.

Fast forward into the future and a Korean runner named Kee-Chung Sohn has won a gold medal in the marathon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics as part of the Japanese delegation.  But because a Korean man won, the Japanese decided to ban all Koreans from competing.

One day, Jun-shik Kim (as portrayed by Dong-gun Jang), a rickshaw runner picks up Kee-Chung Sohn and brings him to a press conference for Japan’s marathon riders.  Sohn protests the Japanese delegation for not allowing Koreans to run and Sohn said if Japanese think they are the best, then at least give Jung-shik Kim a chance to race.  And for Tatsuo (as portrayed by Jo Odagiri), he realizes its another chance to run against his rival.

So, the Japanese accept Sohn’s request and Jun-shik Kim gets the chance to race at the All Japan Trials.  And once again, both men are neck and neck towards the end of the finish line and despite Japan’s attempt to try and bump Kim during the race, Jun–shik Kim is victorious.

But when it came to reading the winners, the Japanese delegation gave the win to Tatsuo Hasegawa and declared Jung-shik Kim disqualified for bumping into Japanese runners (when it was the other way around).

The Koreans upset by how the Japanese were unfair to Jun-shik Kim fight riot and in the process, Jung-shik Kim, his best friend Lee Jong-dae (as portrayed by Kim In-Kown) and their Korean friends are sentenced to serve time by being drafted as soldiers in the Japanese Imperial army.

The Koreans are treated unfairly by their Japanese superiors and are forced into hard manual labor and demeaning tasks.  But during a fight on the Mongolian border against the Chinese, the Japanese retreat.  Jung-shik Kim and his friends, along with a few of their Japanese superiors, survive the bloody battle but are then targeted by a sniper named Shirai (as portrayed by Bingbing Fan).  As Shirai manages to pick off any of the Japanese soldiers, using his quick speed as a runner, Jung-shik Kim manages to stop her.

Meanwhile, a new commander arrives to replace the previous commander Takakura (as portrayed by Tsurumi Shingo) for retreating.  That commander is Tatsuo Hasegawa, Jung-shik Kim’s rival.  And with both men having hatred towards each other, what happens when Hasegawa places Jun-shik Kim and his friends on a suicide mission to attack Russian tanks?

“My Way” is a film that focuses on the life of Jun-shik and Tatsuo, two men who were rivals, enemies but somehow end up becoming each other’s hope.

VIDEO:

“My Way” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.  From the opening scenes of showcasing Jun-shik Kim, you can see the detail of the grime on his face but then go forward to the more war scenes or the characters in the frozen train ride to Russia, there is a lot of detail featured in those scenes.  The intense action sequences are just chaotic, scenes of war is amazingly detailed from its look of despair, violence, bloody carnage to explosions galore, I was quite impressed by the look of this film in HD.

Amazing detail, colors vary from warm to cool depending on the area, but when the characters arrive in Normandy, colors are much more vibrant thanks to the change of scenery.  Black levels are nice and deep and I saw no artifacts or any more issues while watching the film.

“My Way” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“My Way” is presented in Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Korean Dolby Digital Stereo, Also in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English Dolby Digital Stereo.  While I don’t listen to English dub tracks for Asian cinema, it’s good to know that people who can’t watch films with English subtitles, do have that option with this Blu-ray release.

As one would expect from a war film, this is an immersive lossless soundtrack.  From bullets shooting all around you, hearing tanks rummaging and crunching its way through barriers, overhead planes attacking and spraying bullets to bombs being dropped and many scenes of many structures blowing up, the surround channels are utilized as with the LFE for the low frequency booms.  The lossless soundtrack is amazing!

English subtitles are included and easy to read!

SPECIAL FEATURES

“My Way” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (9:03) Behind the scenes of “My Way”.
  • Interviews with Jang Dong-Gun and Director Kang Je-Kyu – (5:52) A short feature about Jang Dong-gun’s interest in the film and how Kang Je-kyu became inspired to make this film.
  • Trailers – Featuring the theatrical trailer for “My Way” (1:59), the home video trailer (2:11) and the international trailer (2:56).

EXTRAS:

“My Way” comes with a slip cover.

I have watched many Korean war films and “My Way” is no doubt, the most ambitious film to come out of Korea and one of the best war films to come from Korea.

Inspired by a photo of a Korean soldier in a German uniform, anyone who has seen the photo before has asked themselves, how is it possible?  While the story of “My Way” was inspired by the photo, it is not a story about the soldier but a story about how Korea was during the time of Japanese rule.

There will always be this lingering dispute between both countries.  And as their have been amazing progress politically and thanks to Korean entertainment permeating worldwide and both countries working with each other in many ways, while a Korean film that focuses on a Korean and Japanese superstar with Jang Dong-gun and Jo Odagiri, this film is not about this country being better than each other.

It’s about two people who grew up with each other, circumstances led them to hate each other, nearly kill each other (multiple times) but during the War and both being away from their countries, their government and facing so much tragedy in their lifetime, the two become each other’s greatest hope.

And what’s amazing about the film is how it captures humanity, the best and worst of it.  We see these men put into dire moments, fighting a losing battle against the Russians, being captured and forced to labor by the Russians and then serving in the Russian military to later be captured and forced to be part of the German military.

It sounds so farfetched but because of historical records and the photo taken at Normandy by American soldiers, we know that it happened.

But most importantly, what I liked about this film is that director and writer Kang Je-kyu didn’t follow traditional Korean screenwriting.  Where most Asian films would always try to show a man fighting for his country against the savage Japanese Imperial Army, this film focuses on the humanity of two people who grew up with each other and somehow, would become important in each other’s lives despite their differences.  The way the film ends was brilliant, touching and very ambitious, and typically when you use the word ambitious, most often these epic films tend to fail.  Not the case with “My Way”, this film direction and screenplay was brilliant and easily accessible for viewers worldwide.

Outside of Jang Dong-gun and Jo Odagiri, the film also stars Chinese superstar Bingbing Fan.  Fans’s involvement is more or less to showcase how China and the women were victimized by the Japanese Imperial army but instead of showing a weak female character, Fan’s character, Shirai, is an expert sniper.  And while her character is not utilized a lot through the film, she plays an important part of bringing back humanity and caring for one another, specifically for the character of Jun-shik Kim.

It helps to bring realism by hiring Russian and German talent in the film and the film’s efficacy also lies within its location shots, the cinematography and also research that went into weapons and tanks used during that era.

The visual effects and the sense of all out chaos during war was well-executed and cinematographer Lee Mo-gae and editor Park Gok-ji is impressive throughout the film!  Aside from the Josh Groban-style ending theme, I enjoyed the film from beginning to end!

The duration of the film is 143 minutes but not as bad as other war films that have gone near 3-4 hours.  In fact, because of the action and its captivating storyline, the film went rather quickly for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture and audio quality is fantastic!  This is probably the best looking Well Go USA Blu-ray I have seen so far and watching this film in HD really showcases a lot of detail and clarity and and the film’s lossless soundtrack is quite immersive.  I wished there were longer special features but you do get two short ones and three trailers, so of the entire release, it’s low point it is short on special features.

But still, with an amazing film with awesome picture quality and lossless audio, it’s hard to anything bad about this release!

Overall, “My Way” is a must-see Korean film that captures the human spirit, to never give up hope and that even amidst the chaos of war, hope continues to thrive and persist.  Another amazing film directed and written by filmmaker Kang Je-kyu and wonderfully acted by Jang Dong-gun and Jo Odagiri. “My Way” on a Blu-ray is a must-own release for fans of Asian cinema.  Highly recommended!






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