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10 10월, 2007

Time Travel and the North/South Divide. Yes, Someone Made it Into A Movie

When I read the blurb on Cheongun I was a bit stymied. What was this movie trying to be? Social commentary, a comedy or both? It seemed at least be worth a watch with a premise that seemed just a tad bizarre. At the DMZ (demilitarized zone, border between North and South Korea), the two Koreas have come together to design the world's best nuclear weapon. Scary, I know. The only problem is this: The West is none too pleased with this development and demand that the weapon be handed over to safer hands, meaning the Americans ,whom, as we all know, are so great and are in no way lead by someone who has less understanding of geopolitics than the average twelve year old. Now some patriotic North Korean would rather die than see that happen (which I totally sympathise with by the way) and so rounds up a team to steal said weapon, kidnaps the principal nuclear scientist (the lone female character in this film) giving his southern compadres the unpleasant task of bringing him back. Now due to some wacky cosmic event, the two teams plus the scientist get sent back in time.

The movie is surprisingly effective as it is essentially 3 movies in one and rookie director Min Joon Ki does quite a nice job treating all three topics. On the one hand the movie is It skirts around the divide between the two Koreas, on issues such as propaganda, national pride, leadership and heroism. The other is the fish-out-of-space-time-continuum a-la A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court thing which we always have so much fun with. The third story is that of Lee Sun Shin who, by all historical accounts was a great warrior who staved off the Japanese from invading Korea. By the way, that would be the South Korean version, the North Korean version has something to do with their immortal leader being alive in 1572. Who knew? When they meet him, he's a thieving loser who just failed the army entrance exams, and has stolen their entire cache of weapons. Fun times.

Of course the comedy is very much laden through the first half of the movie, the second half deals with marauding barbarians trying to overrun several villages in the area and here is where Lee Sun Shin comes into his own. And of course they are trying to get back to their own time and deal with a ticking time (nuclear) bomb.

Now this movie is definitely not of the earthshaking variety, but it is fun to watch and has all the elements but (thank the saints) a half baked romance. It still manages to get several digs in about the state of Korean governmental affairs and the mind-set of the people forced to live with it, but I never thought a scene with a hand grenade could make me laugh so hard, but it did and it still does every time I go back and watch it. A thoroughly enjoyable popcorn flick that takes a serious turn half way through.

3.75 out of 5, just for the grenade scene alone!

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