New York Asian Film Festival 2012

War of the Arrows

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War of the Arrows
Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal | Kim Han-Min, 2011
South Korea | 122 minutes

The highest-grossing Korean movie of 2011, this is an epic chase film that gives audiences a taste of just how rad a Green Arrow movie would be. Park Hae-Il (The Host) and his sister are sent into hiding after their father is accused of being a traitor and murdered. Thirteen years later, Park has become something of an archery prodigy, while his sister (played by TV star Moon Chae-Won) is in love with the son of their host family. Park is furious at her choice, but he can’t stop the wedding. Even worse, it comes on the exact same day that China’s Qing Army invades Korea. The family lives in a border town, and so the Qing military stops off at the wedding first, where they prove to be totally uncool guests: trashing everything, taking Moon and her husband-to-be hostage, and then continuing into Korea, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Park barely escapes with his life, but now he has a mission: with only his bow, he’ll follow the Qing army and rescue his sister. Along the way, the Qing warriors start to realize that their men are being killed one by one by a lone archer, and so a task force of Manchu archers, wielding heavier, more powerful bows, are assembled to take out Park. The Qing conquest of Korea in 1592 is one of the most crushing defeats in world history—after only two months Korea’s king surrendered and gave his son to the Chinese as a hostage. War of the Arrows tells this story, but rather than writing it on an epic scale, it focuses on just a few people fighting to survive: a bride, her groom, and her brother.

At 122 minutes, you might think there’s some fat on these bones, but once the emotional core is forged, it becomes one massive chase sequence, studded with masterful set pieces that involve everything from man-eating tigers to a battle on the side of a cliff. If you were ever a kid who pretended to be Robin Hood, this one’s for you. Director and writer Kim Han-Min has made a blockbuster that does for archery what The Dark Knight did for bats.

Series: New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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