War Of The Arrows – Film Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC War Of The Arrows - Film Review

Released to a thunderous reception in its native South Korea in 2011, War of the Arrows stormed the domestic box office picking up several prestigious awards along the way. Coming to the UK on Blu-Ray and DVD on the 7th of May, War of the Arrows is an epic, period action movie chock full of breath-taking action sequences and exceptional performances from all its leads.

Set along the backdrop of the 17th Century Manchurian invasion of Korea, the film tells the story of Nam-Yi (Park Hae-Il; The Host), a master archer, who goes on a one-man quest to save his younger sister Ja-In (Moon Chae-won), from the clutches of Mongolian invaders who kidnap her at her marriage to family friend Seo-Goon (Kim Mu-Yeol).

War of the Arrows come to Blu-Ray, DVD and VOD 7th of May 2012

Unlike many recent period action films from the Far East such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, War of the Arrows deviates away from the visual extravagance and grandeur of those movies, painting a more brutal and dare I say realistic picture of 1636 Korea. This isn’t to say the film isn’t as visually stirring as those aforementioned movies, just interpreted in a more violent and barbaric style as opposed to an excessive artistic flair. Every action scene is masterfully shot however, harbouring a constant feeling of tension as Nam-Yi attempts to pick off his sister’s captors one arrow at a time. There are also a couple of chilling sequences that capture the brutality of the time period; most notably the opening scene and about half the way through involving a relentless game of cat and mouse between the Mongolians and their prisoners.



Park Hae-Il as Nam Yi.

While high in violence for large portions of the movie, there is a certain class given to the fight scenes. Never becoming overly gory they simultaneously maintain a high level of intensity throughout. This is where War of the Arrows is at it’s strongest, with a good mix of fine sword choreography and slow motion arrow play, there is enough here to entertain fans of eastern cinema and even the action genre in general. Reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s Mayan era chase-movie Apocalypto as well as holding certain parallels to Jean-Jacques Annaud’s underrated war tale Enemy at the Gates, the story leans between a one-man army revenge movie and an intense battle of wits between two exceptional warriors. From it’s horrific opening; director Kim Han-Min dials down the pace for good half an hour to set up its utterly brilliant middle and final third. With a no holds barred flow of tremendous action, the film is a visceral delight only let down by a disappointingly generic soundtrack and the odd inclusion of some needless humorous moments. Minor gripes then, for what is a thoroughly entertaining affair that ticks all the boxes for a gripping film of the genre. Exciting sequences, breath taking action and superb sound design all contribute to what is a wonderfully entertaining 2 hours and 02 minutes.

Moon Chae-Won as Ja-In; the kidnapped sister of Nam-Yi.

The performances are very much what you’d come to expect from a film of this ilk, with very strong leads and a whole host of fine support that lend to the powerful and somewhat tragic plot line. Park Hae-Il excels as Nam-Yi (unsurprising following his brilliant turn in The Host) offering a great range of diversity in his performance. Going from emotionally charged brother to raging warrior with ease, fully justifying his recent haul of best actor awards. And while his on-screen sister features only for a handful of minutes, relative newcomer Moon Chae-won creates an instantly likeable persona adding a little more dimension to the usual “damsel in distress” fare.

From every whistling arrow feather and taught stretch of a bow primed to launch, War of the Arrows is Far Eastern action cinema at it’s very finest, hitting the mark with precision at every turn. Cracking stuff. ****


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