Wah! I think that I began crying within five minutes of this film. One doesn't have to be Korean to "enjoy" this story and I think that is it's genius: the ability to impart to others even a small bit of the pain so many felt...still feel in the aftermath of the Korean War. Even the character flaws in the protagonists, albeit infuriating, lent realism to the the depiction and elicited my empathy.
For example,we have Jin Seok. He grew a lot during the story but it was almost annoying to watch him go through it. The bad thing is, we all know little siblings like him. Sheltered children who can't seem to think for themselves at first only to come to many of the wrong conclusions when they finally DO start manning up. It wasn't too bad though because, in general, he was just doing what immature boys do: being a brat.
On the other hand, although one might attempt to justify his reasons, Jin Tae could possibly be seen as seriously morally corrupt and, unless I was his brother, I sure as h*** wouldn't want him on my team. Believe it or not, I could actually pick apart several of his actions during the film but for now I'll try to keep it a little shorter:
The guy was not a team player; if your name wasn't Jin Seok you weren't worth much more than a pawn (although it could be argued that everyone higher up saw them ALL that way); he had no problem schmoozing with the big guns, parroting whatever they wanted him to yet his actual loyalty was for none other than his brother, not his country, not his fellow soldier, not even his former friends; and that hesitation when Jin Seok told him to run with Young Shin? Was it because he doubted her as well? Or simply because to choose running to safety with her would undoubtedly mean leaving his beloved brother behind? I truly know what it is like to love one's sibling more than anyone else on earth but sometimes a love like that can be unhealthy.
Of course, one's life experiences will always rise to the fore as to which scene struck you the most but for me, even in a story about brothers, I can't stop remembering that poor widowed mother, already physically manifesting the emotional damage wrought from having lost her husband (presumably under Japanese occupation, possibly in World War II) as her babies, babies who know nothing of combat, babies that she raised for 18+ years, were torn from her arms to be thrust into harm's way as pawns for the sake of ideals whose practical implications in her own life she could hardly contemplate.
I look at my child and shudder to think of such a thing. I wonder how I would have coped if my own spouse had perished in combat a few years ago. I was reminded of my nation's descent into Civil War—although that one was at least of our own making rather than imposed upon us by meddling superpowers—yet I can hardly imagine executing my friend, coming to blows with my sibling.
So many losses...and despite the ending picture reminding us that there is nothing left to the living but to keep on living, one can hardly escape the futility of it all: the things that we work for; the businesses we build with our own two hands; the education that we pore over in our studies; the very sacrifices that we make on the behalf of our loved ones; the romances we court; all the blood, sweat and tears we spend on making our lives...
In my opinion it's important to know about history, so that mistakes of the past won't be repeated. Thus I like war movies. Even if they're often ever dramatical, it's alright, because war is a dramatical matter and if a war film is moving, it's good, because that makes people remember how aweful it is, even if they live in peace.
I was seriously moved by this film from the first minute on (well I'm kinda sentimental about this topic) and I cried a lot. I like how it was packaged as in how you could see Jin Seok at the beginning and in the end. The fight scenes and special effects were well done and even though the movie is long, it never becomes boring or irrelevant. Also the cast was awesome, the more I watch with Won Bin, the more I fall for him. He's awesome beyond words! Jang Dong Gun was just as good in this movie. Their portrait of the brotherly relationship made me mad and sad at the same time, thus I loved it, because I believe that's how it was supposed to make me feel.
Overall I can really recommend this film to anyone, not just asian cinema fanatics or people who like war movies.