I'm not all too fond of war movies, especially not of they're set in the 20th century. I gave this one a try because I like the cast and because heard it would be good and touching.
Well... first, this is probably weird to say about a movie about war in which people die like flies but... the visuals were great. It was especially impressive every time they showed the North Koreans moving forward. The colours in general tended to be a little faded out and then you had this army with their bright red flags.
Then... it was touching at times. I didn't cry though, not only not in the end but especially not in the end (more about that later). I liked the character O Jang Beom played by TOP and that for great parts the storyline was centered around him. I think the beginning was great when he was right in the middle of war and was totally freaked out. He wasn't a soldier but just a kid tangled up in some real problems. Bombs went up around him and he was too scared to shoot. It was more luck than anything that he got out alive with nothing but some scratches and a burst eardrum on one side. One could really feel with him. War seemed like such a large awful thing.
Then he became the head of a troop of nothing but students and from then on I went kinda meh about the movie. There were two scenes I liked though. In the first Jang Beom had to shoot a wounded North Korean soldier who cried for his mother. Jang Beom then realized that the enemies weren't monsters but people like him, so he went to a poster showing a demonised North Korean and ripped it off. Another scene was when he was face to face with another soldier, a boy even younger than him whose gun failed him. The delinquent guy then shot the boy. What was interesting then was that he said something one of the enemies also said: "If he has a gun, he's an enemy." You just couldn't help but wonder why kids would have to shoot each other. So, the movie had some great scenes that showed war in its most awful side. You could see all the students who knew nothing about war and who suddenly had to fight on their own. An boy had to shoot his younger brother who was wounded, the delinquent guy lost his friend.
But, while I thought that the first few scenes were great, the end was a little... sappy maybe? The students stopped being idiots and had their heroic moments. The delinquents became heroes, Jang Beom became a good leader... I mean, movies are usually manipulative but here I felt like they were trying to force me to be touched a little too much. But oh well, as I said... I'm not too much into war movies because they all tend to be that way.
Also, I think they tried really hard to make it seem like there was no right and wrong, it's wasn't perfectly objective. I know, that should be obvious since it's a South Korean movie made for a South Korean audience and for that they probably did quite good but... oh, I don't know. Maybe I have a weird standard because of "Flags of Our Father" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" or something.
Cha Seung Won as the North Korean commander was pretty good by the way. Typical villain stuff. Cold-blooded and obstinate... but that's my point. The South Korean commander was awesome and the North Korean one a bastard? Oh, wow, they sure didn't sure any bias. ...Okay, I don't really mean to blame them. A movie showing South and North Koreans as perfect even wouldn't sell, right?
Anyway, what I mean to say is that it was pretty average for a war movie. First some anti-war stuff and then the heroics in a great climax just to finish the viewer off with a devastating end.