Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Arrow – the pointy thing

The road to Rivendell is... oh no, wait, wrong story.
   Weirdly enough, this movie’s title is simply “Bow" that evolved into Arrow – The Ultimate Weapon. Don’t know who came up with this brilliant idea. There is also another title - War of the Arrows. Each one better than the previous one. Despite this, and despite the hype, this is a really nice movie. OK, maybe not everyone will like it, because it's a historical movie. And it's not shiny and silky at all.
There are movies that are pretentious and there are critics that are pretentious. Pretentious movies try to show trivial things as if those were uncomprehensible, transcendental ideas that our simple and unsophisticated minds can't possibly comprehend. Those artsy movies that show plastic bag in the wind for 20 minutes. Pretentious critics, on the other hand, try to find the second, third and maybe even 20th meaning in a cornflakes CF. 
I have only one criterion to judge movies - my personal opinion that may be summarized to - like/dislike. I'm a simple girl, I do like Ockham's razor theory. If a movie is about a bow, I will not try to find its hidden meaning about one's own destiny etc.

   Back to the movie, because I feel like rambling a bit. I rewatched it yesterday (my personal Valentine's Day with few great actors, nice scenery, blood and pointy things) with this review in mind.
I wrote about this movie in September, and just now I discovered C-Jes America commented on it. Great.
But first, few informations.

The plot:

13 years after the King Injo Revolt, the Chosun Dynasty is attacked by the Qing Dynasty of China. A young man named Na-mi leaves his demolished village to find his young sister, Ja-in, and her fiance Su-koon, who were to wed on the very day of the attack. While on his mission to rescue her, he is being traced by Jushinta, a fierce Qing Warrior, and his band of malicious men who are out to stop him. Na-mi has but a day to rescue his sister before she is taken away to be a slave. When Na-mi finally finds his sister, Jushinta comes between them and a fierce battle between two of the finest warriors unfolds.

Park Haeil, Ryu Seungryong, Mun Chaewon, Kim Muyeol, Yi Hanwi, Park Giwung, Ryohei Otani and others.

   As for actors, both male leads are stunning, although they didn't have much to show. Nevertheless, those were dense and intense characters. *fangirl alert* Did I mention Ryu Seungryong? *fangirl alert*
Mun Chaewon was awarded for her role, maybe not the most outstanding out there, but better than Kim Haneul in her both movies from 2011. Park Giwung can have a face of creepy character anyway so playing the Qing Prince that is faaaaar from being a gentleman wasn't actually a big challenge (he played that traitor, pseudo-slave in Chuno, ya'll know). He's awesome. As for Kim Muyeol, you know, when someone plays an idiot once, one has a place in my memory. I hate Iljimae series, but he was so moronish there I just couldn't stop smiling.
Aegyo? I'll show you my aegyo!
   Now, movie.
Everything starts during King Injo revolt. Nami and Jain's father is accused of being a traitor and killed. Nami saves himself and his sister by going to the man their father asked him to go. With a bow.
13 years passed and we have now 1636 year. the year of second Manchu invasion. Last 40 years were really tragic for Joseon. 1592-98: Imjin war, then in 17th century Manchu attacked twice. And Joseon kings did what they always did best - run, and after that, they sent tributes to save the country from total annihilation. Nevertheless, first Japanese ransacked country and kidnapped hundreds of thousands of people, then Manchu did exactly the same from north. Twice.
What's more enraging, and movie states that at the very end, Joseon did nothing to repatriate all those people (almost half of million). If someone came back with his own strength, they could find house and property sold. Women were victims even more. Every woman was treated as slut and it would be better for her to commit suicide so she wouldn't disgrace the family (horrible story about that is in Hometown Legends drama, watch it, really).

   So, we have our characters sketched briefly but with showing their most distinguished traits, Nami is a protective brother but righteous man, his sister Jain is not the girl you'd like to mess up with, she's far from being called passive, Seogun is one honest man, Doreukon is a psycho and Jushinta is walking death.
As the plot depicts, during the wedding of Seogun and Jain, town is demolished completely by Manchu warriors that take almost all people hostage. After some physical abuse and psychological threatening, they come to Amnok River.
Border river. One of those rivers that their waves carry bodies and are colored with blood. Behind it there's no more Joseon, but endless plains and hostile land.

   Jain is one night selected to be a playtoy for Prince Doreukon. And that was the worst decision of his life. Girl knows how to use all pointy things. Her husband and her brother, with two additional men whose only purpose is to die later on, plan to capture her. Great plan, regardless of the fact it's a damn Prince's camp, guarded by fearsome and fearless Manchu warriors. The plan is kinda successful. Nami craftily manages to withhold Doreukon's forces to pursue the rest that had fled the camp. Doreukon manages not to survive this though.

   And this made Jushinta pursue them to the end. I will not spoil the ending when almost everyone dies... oops, too late. They die not because of some ideals, not for a country, not for honor. They die because it was arrow that hit them. Jushinta hates Nami with all his cold-blooded heart. Nami wants to survive this only.
As you probably noticed, there is Hangeul sometimes on the screencaps. yes, this is one fabulous element in this movie - all Manchu warriors don't speak Korean! They speak Manchu language, and even map that was stolen was written in Manchu script. This is something I like. Unlike American movies where everyone speaks English.

Also, what is worth mentioning, it's what moves characters to do what they did, to act the way they did. Their motives are plain and clear - to survive the hunt and to hunt down the prick who kills warriors. That's all.
I especially liked short interaction between Nami and Jushinta just before tiger attack. Jushinta asked why Nami didn't kill him and whether it was out of contempt. Nami had no time to answer - and here comes the paralel - because tiger attacked. What paralel? He didn't kill Jushinta when he had the chance because arrows started to buzz around and he had no time. Maybe, just maybe he wouldn't kill him anyway, even without arrows, but it's just a hypothesis based on his character.
Jushinta, on the other hand, realized what kind of man and warrior Nami is, but he didn't emo-ed about that. You know, in some movies, the bad character has his time to appreciate the skills and worth of his opponent. He sometimes praises him. usually bad characters also have a moment when they question their own conduct.
Nope, not here. Jushinta admired Nami's skills and perseverance, but he didn't go all mushy over it. He was not one of them pansy samurai who weep seeing their rivals' skills, facing the necessity of killing them. No, Jushinta was no pansy. Killing such foe means personal glory. Simple and brutal, but this is how it works in real warriors' world.

   I also liked how they used different weapons. Arrows and bows aside, they had to be different, with those of Manchu's being superior (they had some handy RPG of bows out there, awesome!) but also blades. Manchu warriors had different swords from those of Joseon people.
What else caught my attention? The time of filming. It was maybe late autumn or late winter, trees were bare, no greenery. It's extremely difficult to hide in such forests. Everything is visible and audible. No foliage, no summer stars and cicadas. That was a very, very wise decision from writers, PDs, directors and all. 
And I didn't spot mirrors, good.
If anything else fails - this is fast story, great actors, blood and dozens of deaths all around. Plus nice bows.