War movies are not my kind of thing, to be honest.
I don’t like war; I don’t like all the killing and dying and violence; I’m not even that interested in politics, if we’re being brutally honest.
Despite all that, though, I have to say that with this movie, I was riveted. And I mean completely and utterly riveted. From beginning to end, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from my screen.
And now that the credits have stopped rolling, I can’t stop thinking about it either.
I’ll admit upfront that the reason this movie was even on my radar, was because when I did a Pure Pretty post on TOP a while back, someone recommended that I check out this movie, saying that he was actually pretty good in it.
And yes, now that I’ve seen it, I must say that he really does do a very solid job of the role.
But now, my regard for the movie goes far deeper than the fact that TOP looks great and does well in this.
In case you consider historical facts to be spoilers, here’s fair warning.
As described in Wikipedia:
The film is based on a true story of a group of 71 undertrained and underarmed, outgunned student-soldiers of South Korea during the Korean War, who were mostly killed on August 11, 1950, during the Battle of P’ohang-dong. For 11 hours, they defended P’ohang-dong girls’ middle school, a strategic point for safeguarding the Nakdong River, from an attack by overwhelming North Korean forces, the 766th Unit.
These 71 teenagers, most of whom had never shot a gun before, managed to hold out against the advancing North Korean army for 11 hours. Their heroic defense of the area was actually a turning point in the Korean War. 71: Into the Fire tells the story of these student-soldiers over the course of that fateful day.
STUFF THAT GOT ME THINKING
1. I’m Grateful
As I watched this movie, and saw the very real ravages and dangers of war, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I do not live in a time nor place of war; that I have food, and shelter, and safety. Peace is something that I should really appreciate more.
I am also grateful to those in my country’s history, who have gone to war, or lived through war, in order that we might have peace today.
2. What if?
As I watched the students get into army trucks to take up arms for their country, and watched their loved ones bid them goodbye – possibly for good – I admired their willingness to lay down their lives for their country in their country’s moment of need.
And I wondered, if I’d been born at a similar pivotal point in my country’s history, if I would’ve had the same courage to rise to the occasion as these student soldiers did.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
In our story, TOP’s character, Oh Jang Beom, is tasked to lead the 71 student soldiers as the rest of the forces move out to fight in another area.
Jang Beom momentarily stops his commanding officer, played by Kim Seung Woo, and confesses that he doesn’t think he can do it; he’s never been the leading type.
He’s given no choice, however, and with a few encouraging words to simply lead with his heart, the mission handover is complete.
Jang Beom completely rises to the occasion, despite his feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness, and despite never having wanted to be a leader. He leads his band of 71 student soldiers with courage and determination, even when the odds are stacked against them, and they know that they face certain death by going to battle. And they all walk, purposefully, into the (line of) fire.
Even though we can detect the fear in Jang Beom’s eyes, he keeps his brave face on to the very end.
A SORT-OF RELATED PERSONAL TANGENT
Many of you know that I’m from Singapore. This week, we mourn the passing of our founding father and first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Truth be told, as I watched this movie, I thought of him too.
I don’t believe that all those years ago, that he’d set out wanting to become a politician, even. I mean, before Everything happened, he was basically going about his business, preparing for law school.
And then Stuff happened, and his country was in a state of flux. It was a pivotal point in this nation’s history. And somewhat like Jang Beom and the rest of the student soldiers in this movie, he rose to the occasion, to fill the role that was needed.
He may not have died in battle like these student soldiers did, but in a manner of speaking, he gave his life for his country, not unlike how they gave their lives for their country.
Which makes me wonder all over again: if I’d been in a similar situation, born into a pivotal point in Singapore’s history, in a position to possibly make a difference, if I would dedicate my life, would I have made the same choice?
I don’t know the answers to the questions that this film has caused me to raise, but I do feel inspired to say two things:
1. That whatever situations we might encounter, may we rise to the occasion, in whatever roles we may be of service; whether as a leader, or as a follower, and,
2. May we also never take for granted the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Compelling, thought-provoking, and inspiring.
FINAL GRADE: A
Oddly, the available trailer for this movie has an English voiceover. Nonetheless, it gives you a taste of the movie, so here it is: