Brotherhood: Platinum Edition*
PREMIER ASIA

 
Starring:
Jang Dong-Gun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-Joo
Directed By:
Kang Je-Gyu
Year:
2004
Run Time:
2 hours 30mins
Producer: Premier Asia
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Languages:
KOREAN 5.1, English 5.1, Korean DTS
Subtitles:
English, English SDH
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
2.35:1 Anamorphic
Region:
2
Genre:
War / Drama - 15 (UK) Should be an '18' in my opinion.
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MOVIE
9/10

* Please note that the review discs I was sent were comprised of the Rental version of the film itself, along with the second disc found on the Platinum Edition.
The DTS soundtrack, and the Mike Leeder & Bey Logan commentary are not included on the Rental version, so I'm unable to rate those.
*

Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking - HONG KONG DVD Heaven…but to be fair, I knew little about Brotherhood, and even less of where it originated from, after it landed upon my doormat a few weeks ago
However, having been continuously impressed by the recent efforts of Korean filmmakers, my expectations were high for this seemingly epic film, based around the Korean war of 1950.

Two brothers, Jin-Tae (Jang Dong-Gun) and Jin-Seok (Won Bin), are forced to join the South Korean army in an attempt to fight off the invading North.
Jin-Tae’s wife to be, his mother and their family are left behind, and his only hope is that he can return his younger brother home to his studies - with the family struggling to survive on Jin-Tae’s meager earnings, their only hope lies in Jins-Seok’s continuing education.
Unfortunately, Jin-Seok suffers not only from a weak heart, but also a weak stomach. At 18, he lacks his brother’s somewhat world-weary outlook and finds the demands of the Army almost too much to bear. With his protective older-brother continuously attempting to put himself in the line of fire (both figuratively and literally), to save his brother from facing the possibility of death, Jin-Tae gains a fearless reputation.

Upon hearing that a congressional medal will guarantee Jin-Seok’s discharge from the Army, Jin-Tae takes it upon himself to risk life and limb to obtain one. As Jin-Tae’s desire to see Jin-Seok safe escalates (putting their friends in their Unit at risk) the brothers grow further apart, until one horrific incident splits them for good….

War films are never “brilliant” in my opinion.
There always seems to be something rather sick about describing accurate films from the genre as “entertaining” or “fantastic”, as that always makes it sound as if you’ve had a great time watching them.
To me, the greatest war films are survived, rather than enjoyed, and Brotherhood certainly puts you through the emotional wringer.

Almost from the opening scene, the film hooks you in and never lets go throughout its 2 hour-plus running time. A lot of ground is covered in both dramatic and geographical terms, but it rarely feels like a moment of screen-time is wasted.

The two leads each handle their characters magnificently, with the supporting cast also impressing. The changing relationship between the brothers is explored with great aplomb by director Kang Je-Gyu, and the motives of Jin-Tae are believably explored.
Neither the North Korean’s actions, nor the South’s, are portrayted as the “right” ones, leaving the aim focused solely on the brothers. They both love each other deeply, but go about showing it in different ways.
Initially I have to admit that I was unsure if the film would carry an emotional punch, as the leads were introduced and I started to get an idea of the direction the movie might take.
My concerns were soon proved to be unfounded though, as I was drawn into the very real world created by the production.

The quite horrific battle sequences are reminiscent of Black Hawk Down in cinematic style, and Saving Private Ryan in their ability to shock, creating a tangible sense of fear and death throughout.
The unpredictable, and realistic action also keeps you on your toes, as none of the characters appear to be safe from the mayhem around them.
CGI is used sparingly, with the explosions, fire-effects and gruesome injuries all convincing you of their authenticity.

If I’m being ultra-critical, then I have to mention that the film does briefly slip into melodrama near its end. This is fleeting, but does seem at odds with the general feel of the screenplay.

Possibly the most impressive thing about the film, and the most surprising, is its conclusion. At the film's close I was struck by how relatively low-key the final scenes were – maybe I’ve been brainwashed by too many Hollywood epics which end with a "message" of some sort – but I appreciated the way in which you were left to focus on the characters, rather than a cheap political dig at either North or South Korea.

This is a truly epic film – not just due to its scope or direction, but because of its reliance on character rather than set-pieces to drive its story.

By this film immediately.

PICTURE
10/10

Quite simply superb.
The print is spotless, the detail pin-sharp, and no other problems were exhibited throughout.

There really is little left to say, other than this is one of the best looking transfers I've seen from Premier Asia/HKL for a long, long time.

SOUND
9/10

Although sadly lacking the DTS track on the disc I was supplied with (which would no doubt be immense), the 5.1 soundtrack is very good indeed. Directional effects are dynamic and dialogue is clear, while the cracking musical score is reproduced excellently.

SUBTITLES
8/10

As I neither speak, nor understand, Korean I can only go with my gut instincts:
The font used is well sized, and to my mind, the subtitles appear accurate and well translated.
However, the only slight question-mark hung over the possibility of the odd bit of over-simplification creeping in, but I have no way of identifying this.

MENUS
9/10

Brilliant menus which utilise the look of the film.

EXTRAS
8/10

DISC 1:

Commentary
With Bey Logan and Mike Leeder (sadly missing from the review disc I was sent).

DISC 2:

THE WAR ROOM

" Battle Plans
A story boarded scene from the film.

“Special Operations
Possibly taken from the original Korean release, this 10 minute piece talks to the director and advisors involved in the films conception.

“Captain’s Orders”
An illuminating, and refreshingly honest, interview with the film’s action-director Jung Hoo-Dun, in which he discusses the many aspects of filming the explosive sequences.

“Honoured in Dispatches”
The budget of the film, and the decisions made by the production team are discussed in this 15 minute long selection of interviews.

MINISTRY OF PROGANDA

“Trailers”
Both Korean the Theatrical trailer and the UK Promo trailer.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger
A 25 minute documentary about the war, including interviews with survivors.

MAKING HISTORY

“History Through the Lens”
Another set of interviews with eh cast and crew, this time focusing on the acquisition on the cinematographer Hong Gyeong-Pyo.

“Brotherhood”
Featuring behind the scenes footage, and interviews with the cast and crew, this 17 minute feature looks at the actors persuaded to take up key parts in the film.

“Tears of Fire”
This lengthy, 45 Making Of… is full of behind the scenes footage and fascinating insights into the film

Further Attractions:

Trailers and info for The Grudge, Champion, Bang-Rajan, Volcano High, Ong-Bak and The Warrior

An impressive number of features, which contain a depth of information rarely seen on Premier Asia/Hong Kong Legends releases. My only disappointment comes from the subtitles which appear for the crew’s names. They flash up so quickly they’re almost impossible to spot and are then not translated again for the rest of the feature. This makes it rather difficult to remember who the interviewee is, and what part they played in the films conception.

Aside from that, the extras certainly do the film justice.

CONCLUSION
9/10

There's really not much more to say, other than you MUST own this film.

MOVIE 9/10
PICTURE
10/10
SOUND
9/10
SUBTITLES
9/10
EXTRAS
8/10
MENUS
9/10
PACKAGING
9/10
OVERALL 9/10