[Review] The Battleship Island

The Battleship Island is probably one of the most hyped movie this year. A fictional war movie based on historical facts, the movie starred heartthrobs So Ji Sub and Song Joong Ki as well as veteran actor Hwang Jung Min. Directed by Ryoo Seung Min, the movie earned $27.9 million from 4.07 million admissions over just five days.


It is 1945 and Korea is under Japanese Occupation. Men are being drafted into the army and jazz is banned. Amid this scenario, about 400 Koreans were forced, abducted or deceived into going to Hashima (Battleship Island) as forced labour to help Japan mine for coal, a very important asset that aid in the rapid industrialisation of Japan. Among them, a well know gangster leader and his men, a band leader and his men and a freedom fighter.


This is one action packed movie from the minute go. There is seriously no lull moment. And it is not just due to the fighting scenes. The plot twist right in the middle of the show was a cliff hanger for me. The final escape battle scene was cinematographically mesmerising.

To be honest, I watched the show because of Song Joong Ki. He is indeed as charming as he was in the hit drama, ‘Descendants of the Sun’. Reprising his role as a soldier in the movie, he is a level headed intelligent soldier (the best one there is available), albeit grimier and skinnier (he mentioned in the interview that one of the hardest part was loosing weight). The last 15 minutes had him in full commanding glory, executing the plan for the mass escape of the hundreds of prisoners.

So Ji Sub has acted the role of a gangster numerous times in his career. As the gruff, violent gangster with a soft spot, he acted the part to perfection. I wished there was more screen time/ interaction with Lee Jung Hyun, who acted as a comfort woman. The famous fight scene in the public bath with a fellow Korean where he fought with just a loincloth, is a good eye popping, eyes screwing (too violent) bloody, crunching scene.

However, the real star and hero of the show is Hwang Jung Min. The street smart band leader may seemed like a weakling, bending and kowtowing to any authoritarian figure, be it the Japanese or Korean, but this man is a lion when it comes to protecting his only daughter. The ladies’ man is quick to size every chance to make money but at the same time looking out for his team mates. Hwang Jung Min showed such an array of emotions- from opportunistic businessman, funny comedian, loving father and a quick thinking leader in rousing the men and women to freedom, he gave us a glimpse of what many ordinary prisoners must have felt then- survival at all cost.

In this role, he was aided by the precocious Kim Su An, who played his daughter. The naivety of a child, fully trusting his father to protect her, the maturity in knowing when to smile and dance for her captors. She managed to deliver these and more. I will definitely be looking forward to seeing her on the screen as she matures.

One of the most memorable scene for Hwang Jung Min was the father and daughter scene where they shared a moment of tenderness playing in the moonlight, just outside the Japanese commander’s house. Personally, I found the scenes where he forced his daughter to eat the precious raw egg showed just how much he loved her very touching.

The movie naturally raised the ire of Japan when it was announced. No doubt, they were cast as cruel enemies in the movie. But the real villains were the Korean supervisor who worked the other Koreans to death, the pimp who sold the women to the Japanese soldiers and the greedy traitor who betrayed his fellow men’s trust in the name of money and power.

As in any war movie, it is gruesome. But it also depicts who the real heroes are. The ordinary men and women.

‘The Battleship Island’ is now showing in all cinemas. Do note that this is a NC16 movie (which means you have to be above 16 years old).

All photos are official photos released by CJ Entertainment.

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