By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
The Grand Bell Awards are Korea’s answer to the Oscars, and judging by recent winners, just as susceptible to the star-studded period drama or sweeping war film.
I mean, this won the Oscar before it even started filming
The Admiral: Roaring Currents is the latter type of awards bait, starring preeminent Korean actor Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, I Saw the Devil) as Yi Sun-shin, an admiral who faced down and defeated the formidable Japanese Navy not once, but twice against impossible odds. To my disappointment (one victory occurred near a Korean town I lived in for two years), this film is about the second, perhaps even crazier triumph, in which he faced down a force of, on the low end of estimations, 133 Japanese warships with only 13 of his own.
It takes awhile, but the big battle of Myeongnyang, which takes up over an hour, if not more of the film’s runtime, is worth the price of admission. Director Kim Han-min knows how to amp up the dramatics of big action setpieces, and the setting and combat tactics are truly unique to most any audiences but Korean ones.
Two words: Turtle Ships
Kim is also able to wring a surprising amount of rousing emotion and tearfully noble sacrifice out of his large cast and perhaps overly intricate storylines, which give the Japanese antagonists nearly the same screentime as his Korean national heroes. Finally, Choi Min-sik does not disappoint- his Yi Sun-shin is a cold-hearted badass for the ages.
The battle is milked for maximum drama, but to the complete detriment of historical accuracy. I’m no expert, but on the scale of military historical verisimilitude, this slides far from Gettysburg and much closer to Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.
Blows stuff up pretty good, though…
The lead up to the battle, in which it seems Kim is trying to pack in as many historically accuratish intrigue as possible, as a result is pretty tough and not terribly motivating to follow.
Man, that ending is terrible. Is that a ghost-turtle ship? A collective Japanese nightmare? Kim asserting his Korean Michael Bay bona fides with one more fireball?
While not nearly deserving of the amount of acclaim it received in Korea, The Admiral: Roaring Currents still delivers some pretty awesome naval action.
The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each heroic Yi Sun-shin pose
Take a Drink: for each Japanese pirate-admiral badass villain pose
Take a Drink: for epic sword fights
Take a Drink: for each Japanese ship deep-sixed
Do a Shot: Turtle Ship!