Sunday, October 23, 2011

71: Into the Fire film review

Hello! I’m k-bap and I’m a new recapper. I love Kpop, kdramas, and kimbap. Anyways, I watched 71: Into the Fire the other day, and decided to write a movie review. (It may contain some spoilers of who dies, but I don’t think it matters that much, since according to history, most of these soldiers died anyways.) Without further ado, let’s get down to business! (It’s real serious stuff. Really.)

Click image to enlarge
Since this is a historical war film, there should be some background information that we need to know (the movie itself addresses some): The story centers around seventy-one student soldiers (with 68 of them completely new and three that had previous training) that stayed behind in an abandoned girl’s middle school on July 25, 1950. In the midst of the Korean War, the student soldiers battled against hundreds of North Korean soldiers as they stalled eleven hours for the rest of the S. Korean army. This movie was inspired by a soldier’s letters to his mother. (Who, of course, is our hero. Moving on…)
Left: TOP; Right: Kwon Sang-woo
There are actually two main heroes of this movie, OH JUNG-BUM (TOP/Choi Seung-hyun) and KU KAP-JO (Kwon Sang-woo). Oh Jung-bum, one of the three trained student soldiers, is left in charge of the seventy-one students. Though he is the leader, Jung-bum has never shot at a single person, and has only managed not to get killed. One of the most troublesome of the new students, Ku Kap-jo, clashes often with Jung-bum, choosing not to follow his orders and challenges his authority.

First of all, the acting in this movie is really good. It feels realistic (though I’m skeptical on what I think is a country accent), and everyone plays their roles accurately and enthusiastically. I am quite impressed with TOP’s acting abilities. Not that he stellar, but I think he did an excellent job showing emotion through his eyes. I’m not always fond of idols acting, since, yunno, some of them can’t act, but TOP’s acting here really blew me away (maybe it was because I didn’t have high expectations to start with, but it is still outstanding). He plays Jung-bum perfectly as a silent student that saw the horrors of war (which is portrayed quite realistically, though without the guts and grotesque things. Which I’m thankful for.) Kwon Sang-woo, on the other hand, wasn’t bad, but I find it a little weird for someone his age to act as a student soldier. Besides that, he is fantastic as a brash and rude country thug.
Left: Cha Seung-won; Right: Kim Seung-woo
Besides TOP and Kwon Sang-woo, some of the secondary characters are quite marvelous themselves. PARK MU-RANG (Cha Seung-won) is brilliant as a haughty, arrogant North Korean commander. Though he appears less than TOP or Kwon Sang-woo throughout the movie, in the scenes we see him we know that he belittles the seventy-one students. Thinking that they will inevitably die by his hands, Park Mu-rang even offers the students a chance to surrender, instead of killing them immediately. What he didn’t anticipate is that the seventy-one students will be able to fight the N. Korean soldiers off effectively until part of the S. Korean army, lead by KANG SUK-DAE (Kim Seung-woo), arrives.
Left: Hyung; Right: Dongsaeng (Kim Hye-seong)
The first time I watched this film, I didn’t really pay attention to most of the unnamed students, because there’s so many of them, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. The second time, however, I found myself paying more attention to a young student soldier (played by Unstoppable High Kick’s adorable Kim Hye-seong) who follows his “hyung” (I don’t think they’re biological siblings) to the army. There are scenes where the new students seem like everything but likeable, but it is a little heartbreaking to see Dongsaeng long for his mother’s kimchi stew.
Left: one of the three previously trained students; Right: radio/telephone boy
Besides Donsaeng, there are a lot more memorable students that you can name (Kap-jo’s friends, the telephone/radio boy, Hyung) who sacrifice their lives to stall the N. Korean army. While they aren’t very important, it’s nice to see minor characters that are heroic in their own way.
Back to our heroes, you can really see the growth in Jung-bum’s character. I liked how Jung-bum didn’t wake up the next morning and suddenly became a leader, but instead, he slowly learns how to deal with the troublesome students. At first, Jung-bum was a student that needed to be saved, and was someone who carried ammunition to the soldiers. Jung-bum was never in action before he was in charge of the seventy-one students. When he kills his first N. Korean soldier, you can see the frustration, anger, and sadness in his eyes, and it is pretty downright intense. There is struggling, conflicting emotions as Jung-bum tries to convince himself that the enemies are monsters, and wrote,
“Omoni, I killed a North Korean soldier today. I was told that North Koreans are monsters with horned heads. But, those words from his mouth…he was looking for his mother."
Later, however, Jung-bum is able to band together the seventy-one students to resist N. Korean forces. Nearing towards the end, Jung-bum seems like a real hero, almost a little Hollywood styled, as he shoots down soldiers from the roof. Some people might find the slight Hollywood style not their taste, but I thought it was all right. All seventy-one students are heroes, but this movie just focused on two. Boy needs his attention too.

Kap-jo, on the other hand, didn’t change that much. He was self-centered and brash, and to me, at the end of the movie, he is still brash, but a little less self-centered. He does learn to care about his companions and the people around him, as one of his friends die in the first attack. Kap-jo, however, is unbelievably courageous and has a very strong loyalty to his country, which makes him really shine. Though he knows that he faces a certain death, he still fights for freedom till literally the last moment.
Some basic shots of the scenery (In LQ)
71: Into the Fire stunned me with its beautiful colors. The sky, even the sand, is toned down and saturated (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) and the colors really match the dusty war look. It’s like after the movie was filmed, it was edited on Photoshop or something (Yah, that’s not possible). Anyways, besides the characters and story, I also enjoyed the quality of the movie. Some of the shots were simple but amazing.

Though most of the movie consists of fighting, I enjoyed all of the scenes immensely, not only the scenery but also the story. To me, the whole movie is mostly tightly woven, but it gets a little draggy near the end. Not very draggy, but more time is emphasized on the last few scenes. Which is no problem for me, but others may not appreciate it.

I don’t have much to say about the music, except that the music choices are fantastic and fit the mood beautifully. (I always feel bad when I choose not to mention the music, since music really enhances the film.)
Oh Jung-bum's Omma and other villagers
Overall I love this movie very much, and while it’s neither groundbreaking nor super-intense (see: Ahjusshi), it flows very evenly and can even be called a tearjerker (especially if you love to cry, like me). One of the things I appreciate most, above fantastic choice of music and pretty scenery, is that it’s not too quiet. With my experience of Asian movies in general, there are some scenes where it’s so boring, mainly because of the lack of music

Anyways, this action-packed and thrilling film is one of my favorite Korean movies so far. If you have time, definitely go watch this movie! You won’t regret it (unless you really hate war movies). Even though I’m a frugal person, I will buy the DVD of this when I get the chance. Really. Plus, Into the Fire gets extra points for TOP eyecandy.
TOP eyecandy
Last but not least…
I hope you liked my first film review! I know it’s not perfect (far from it), and if you have any suggestions on how to improve, please email me at: 
(Or comment below!)


  1. Hey i just read your review. It was good, for your first review. Loved how you tried to go down into details about the movie. Cant say much about it since I havent watched it yet. Maybe you could share some of your favorite scenes in
    the movie. And don't hesitate to criticize it, tell what's bad about the movie.
    About TOP's eyes, I gotta agree with you on that. I think his eyes are expressive and he can use it well if he wants to pursue acting. Im really surprised that top, as you said, was good in here. Well he wouldnt win an award for nothing right?
    Speaking of Ajusshi, can you make a review on it? It's such a wonderful movie and I can't bring myself to write a review on it because I think I'll just ruin it. Haha.
    Anyway, job well done. Looking forward to your reviews :-)

  2. Hey bluetsukky12! Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate it. Um, I'm actually really nervous about posting my reviews, so I'm still learning I guess. I'll try to include my favorite scenes; maybe I'll edit this later? But I kinda want to keep it as it is so I know how much I improve, but I will remember your tip next time! Thanks so much for your comment, I'll try to watch Ajusshi this weekend? I'm not sure if I won't ruin it's awesome-ness though. :)

  3. I think you are doing fine for your first try!

    You can try reading other people's reviews for practice - there are different ways of writing reviews, so just try and figure out what style you want to use and then hone it. That's what we all do.

    I think what would be nice here would be some pictures (or even links), especially if they can help illustrate what you write. For example you mention that "71: Into the Fire stunned me with its beautiful colours.", so you could include a picture that would give us a better idea of the colour scheme of the film.

    The comment on the music doesn't really say much. As a reader, I would probably at least like to know what kind of music it is, an instrumental soundtrack? Songs with lyrics? Is there a theme song? (etc.) I know what you mean though, the music score the sort of thing that's often skipped in reviews but it's a pity for it to be skipped. But I think at the same time, if there isn't anything in particular we can say about it, maybe it isn't worth commenting on?

  4. Thank you for your comment! I plan on putting in pictures, but haven't found the exact time for it. (Plus, I watch movies with subs online so when I pause there's the pause sign over the picture. Sigh. Still have to figure that out.) I do realize how incomplete my review looks without pictures though, and I will add them as soon as I can!
    Hmmm, I do think my music section is lacking. I finished writing my review, and like you said, realized that mentioning the music is is kinda lacking...substance. I guess I'll try to figure out how to post music or something, since I love including music. Thank you for your comment, I'm learning a lot of new things from you! :)

  5. kbap - That was pretty good! Made me want to see the movie. I definitely think picking a few key scenes/musical moments/brilliant scene choices/good camera angles, will help explain some of the beauty that you described. PIck a moment and say why the particular aspect was powerful.

    Good job! Congrats on your first! It makes you feel so proud of your accomplishment, right?

  6. Hi raine0211! Thank you for your compliment :) I'm still looking for a way to get screenshots w/o the pause button on it, but I definitely will put in pictures! (It actually upsets me a little see them w/o pictures, lol) Thanks for your tip, too :) And your comment. :) I do feel proud of my review, though I think I still need to improve on some stuff. Thank you for your comment! :)