This summer marks the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War, also known to some as The Forgotten War. John H. Lee’s newest film, Into the Fire (포화 속으로) 2010, starring Kwon Sang Woo (권상우) and bad-boy rapper T.O.P (탑), is based on an actual event and pays tribute to 71 high school students. During the early days of the war when trained soldiers were in short supply, these unlikely heroes bravely defended the South Korean port city of Pohang.
Unlike in some Korean war films, e.g. Brotherhood: Taeguki (태극기 휘날리며) 2004, the film focuses more on the transition of the students as young boys to men fighting for their county, rather than demonising the North Koreans. Kwon, having actually trained new students during his own military service (which is required of all South Korean men), gave a notably strong performance. Amidst the chaos and bloodshed emerges a certain poetic masculinity in his character that I think only he could have pulled off.
Note: This review is based on a special pre-screening in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War. The film is currently in post-production and has not yet been released in the UK/US. I didn’t find the film as gut-wrenching as I did Brotherhood, but that is probably because I was excited about meeting Kwon after the press conference.