AsianMovieWeb logo
My Way - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Mai wei

South Korea 2011

War, Action, Drama

Kang Je-kyu

Jang Dong-gun
J Odagiri
Kim In-kwon
Fan Bingbing
Han Seung-hyeon
Yang Jin-seok
Kim Hee-won
Do Ji-han
Lee Yeon-hee
Jeong Jong-yeol

Search AsianMovieWeb

My Way

aka Prisoners of War

Story: Kim Jun-shik (Jang Dong-gun) has a dream. He wants to compete at the Olympic Games for the Japanese-occupied Korea. However, he has one rival, the Japanese Tatsuo Hasegawa (J Odagiri), who he eventually beats in a preliminary tournament. But since the scandal of the first Korean Olympic winner in marathon, Sohn Kee-chung, who when standing on the stair top indirectly protestet against the Japanese occupation, Japan doesn't take any chances and doesn't allow Jun-shik, despite his victory, to participate in the Olympic Games. A small riot breaks loose so that Jun-shik and his friend Jong-dae (Kim In-kwon) as well as many other Koreans are arrested and sentenced to serve in the Japanese army. First, Jun-shik and his fellow countrymen are sent to Nomonhan, next to the Manchurian border where they once again meet Tatsuo Hasegawa. He is their commander now and wants to force the Koreans to participate in a suicide mission in order to take down the advancing Russian tanks. Jun-shik survives, but in the following years World War II strikes at him with its whole gruesomeness.

Review: If it comes to anti-war movies from South Korea there will most likely be "Taegukgi - The Brotherhood of War" popping up in your head first. The director of that flick, Kang Je-kyu, brings another movie to the big screen after taking a break for about eight years. And once again it is the most expensive movie ever shot in the country to date. But the money can also be seen in every single frame. In cooperation with China almost 28 million dollar have been brought together and since Asian actors don't demand any exorbitant sums that would eat up the budget the film actually looks four times that expensive. If it was Kang's objective to tie the word "epic" to an anti-war movie then he certainly succeeded this time. Thus, it's even the more sad that there was some cutting down when it came to the screenplay. In fact a phenomenon rather typical for Hollywood.

Give a director money and he doesn't need to give any thought to innovative content anymore. Yet, the movie's plot idea itself is pretty fascinating. That is because the story is based on a true event. During D-Day a Korean wearing a German uniform was captured. As it turned out he got into the German army via Russia. Apart from that fact the director naturally takes numerous liberties concerning his take on the story. Two rivals, who become bitter enemies in their profession of marathon running, meet once again in the army. Hatred, however, changes into friendship after everything they have to live through together and eventually even into brotherhood, which in fact brings us to "Taegukgi" again. It's just unhandy that Tatsuo undergoes a change in the movie which retrospectively is just a bit too big in scale to be believable.

Director Kang loves black-and-white drawings to eventually mix some shades of grey into it as well. Tatsuo is a truely despicable guy. His blind love for his home coutry is also alienating, although not that unusual at that time. After all the atrocities he commits his epiphany in later years seems somewhat strange, though. How blind can a guy like him be? Luckily, J Odagiri ("Dream", "Shinobi") has the acting expertise to bestow more charm on his character than actually should have been possible. In a few scenes he even speaks German! Which brings us to another point or rather several points. Apart from Japanese and Korean there is also Russian, Chinese and German language to be found in the movie as events take place at numerous locations and concerning the supporting roles the film even is carried by an international cast. Finally, German doesn't sound like a language that is just distantly related to it! But that is only a small part of the efforts put into "My Way".

The pictures and camera work are as epic as the locations, which are full of details. Many battles, along with explosions, special effects, giant armies, air plane squadrons and tank battalions shake up the screen. The chaos, but naturally the violence as well, is captured by bombastic pictures and underlined by a likewise soundtrack. The fact that the film takes place during the Nomonhan incident, at a Russian prison camp and eventually in the Normandy, even though "My Way" starts off jovially with a marathon contest, gives Kang's work an extra amount of epicness. Language prodigy Jang Dong-gun, who already had to speak Chinese in "The Promise", has to speak Japanese most of the time and tries to make head against Odagiri acting-wise which he actually fails to do towards the end at the latest. A positive surprise is Fan Bingbing ("Shaolin") in a supporting role, which is why it really would have been nice to see her on the screen a bit longer.

A giant flaw is the half-baked screenplay and the rather two-dimensional characters. Surely you can overlook the fact that the two protagonists survive situations that would have been a hundert percent deadly, but some more background to the two characters, especially to Tatsuo, wouldn't have hurt anyone. At least director Kang doesn't utilize that much pathos as in his former work, which doesn't mean that there isn't emotional cinema to be found here again, that maybe would have worked better on a more subtle level. In this respect "My Way" is still missing out a lot after all. That profoundness can go hand in hand with great action in an anti-war movie has been proven by the Korean film "The Front Line" and therefore that one still sits on the throne of the genre. However, those who want an epic, eye-popping and effect-loaden anti-war movie that makes almost any Hollywood flick look small doesn't need to look any further.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo