June 24, 2024

Noryang: Deadly Sea 2024 Movie Review

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Noryang: Deadly Sea 2024 Movie Review

“Noryang: Deadly Sea,” director Kim Han-min’s final installment of his trilogy about South Korea’s legendary naval admiral, Yi Sun-sin, opens and closes with the deaths of two historical figures who forever shaped the geopolitical landscape of East Asia.

The movie opens with a scene in which Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the mastermind behind the Japanese invasions of Korea, dies soon after ordering the Japanese forces to withdraw from the Korean Peninsula.

The 2.5-hour epic film recounts the last naval battle between a retreating Japan and the allied forces of Joseon and the Ming dynasties who pursued them.

Ironically, the conflict that was meant to conclude the seven-year war flared up in the most dramatic — and deadly — way. More soldiers died in the Battle of Noryang, which took place on Dec. 16, 1598, and lasted until dawn the next day, than in any other battle of the war.

With their diminished military strength, which naturally reduced their willingness to risk their lives, the Japanese soldiers’ primary aim was not victory, but simply survival and a safe return home.

For Yi Sun-sin, his mission was clear: annihilate the enemy. As much as it was his responsibility to win the war as an admiral, it was also his personal revenge against the Japanese forces who took the lives of his own son and those of countless others. Yi believes ending the war “in the right way” would set the path for the nation and teach the enemy a lesson that reckless invasions cost it dearly.

Actor Kim Yoon-seok, who played Yi, found it challenging to deliver the admiral’s resolute conviction through minimal dialogue.

The actor pulled off a stellar performance, embodying Yi’s unwavering resolve and indomitable spirit to fight till the very end of the war that eventually claimed his own life. As the director has said, Kim decisively portrayed Yi’s double-sidedness of having “strong passion, as seen in ‘Roaring Currents,’ and realistic and level-headed attitude seen in ‘Hansan’ at the same time.”

At the height of the battle, Yi falls to his knees, struck by a bullet on his left shoulder. He is hurriedly carried to his cabin while his son continues to beat the war drums to keep up the fighting spirit.

Kim matter-of-factly utters Yi’s famous last words, “Do not announce my death,” in the admiral’s characteristic low and calm voice to keep moral high, making his death all the more tragic.

The film embodies the director’s decadelong dedication to one subject — Admiral Yi’s life, his love for the nation and the people, and his great war strategies and tactics.

Some may find the lengthy — yet necessary — explanations about the power dynamics and history of East Asia in the beginning of the film perplexing. It was all the more confusing with three different languages, some of them in old dialects, being spoken and even allied forces failing to see eye to eye on what extent a war should be launched.

Clocking in at 1 hour and 40 minutes, the night battle scenes take the audience to Asia’s deadliest naval warfare that finally ended the Imjin War, or the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-98). The ferocious war at sea takes place in pitch black. It is only occasionally lightened up with cannons shooting fire and the arrows of flying fire. The dramatic, blood-pumping action sequences in a long take vividly reconstruct the deadly confrontations on war vessels.

All these elaborate, engaging cinematic elements are enough to tie some loose ends. For some, watching the war hero’s final moments on the big screen, although a well-known fact, might be enough.

Noryang: Deadly Sea 2024 Movie Review