Welcome To Dongmakgol (2005)
Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 2 Average: 3.5/5]
Directed By: Park Kwang-hyun
Cast: Jung Jae-young, Im Ha-ryong, Ryu Deok-hwan, Shin Ha-kyun, Seo Jae-kyung, Kang Hye-jung, Steve Taschler
Welcome to Dongmakgol is a unique anti-war movie. Set in 1950 during the Korean War, it is based on the play of the same name by playwright/filmmaker Jang Jin. This debut film of director Park Kwang-hyun is unique because it isn’t preachy but at the same time puts forward a distinct message. There have been many movies on the Korean war but this one is unlike any. Welcome to Dongmakgol combines emotions and comedy in a very sensitive matter.
In the year 1950 during the height of the Korean war, a US Navy pilot Neil Smith (Steve Taschler) crash lands in the mountains. He is rescued and nursed back to health by the people from a nearby village called Dongmakgol. Dongmakgol is cut off from the outside world. They don’t know anything about the war or new technologies or guns or bombs. Soon Rhee Soo-hwa (Jung Jae-young), Jang Young-hee (Im Ha-ryong) and Seo Taek-gi (Ryu Deok-hwan): wandering North Korean soldiers join Neil. And in parallel Pyo Hyun-chul (Shin Ha-kyun) and Moon Sang-sang (Seo Jae-kyung) two South Korean soldiers also end up in the same village after deserting their units. This results in a standoff which ultimately leads up to a hilarious tragedy. What makes them forget their rivalries and come together to save the village forms the rest of the plot.
The script is the best part of the movie- it never tries to put across a message rather it is interwoven in the screenplay. Welcome to Dongmakgol creates situations which slowly change the beliefs of the soldiers about war. Time spent together changes the attitude of the soldiers towards each other. Once the guns and the uniforms are removed they are just people. Many scenes subtly show the anti war theme. The most powerful one is when they try to explain war to the villagers. There is also the issue of collateral damage and civilian casualties in war, when UN plans to bomb the entire mountain.
Yeo-Il (Kang Hye-jung) is the most important character of the movie. Though no one takes her seriously because she is absent minded but she is the main reason behind the change of heart. Jung Jae-young is the the main hero, he is not a man of many words but the one to break the ice and look beyond the rivalry. Shin has also acted well as a soldier struggling with the demands of war. Other actors also have meaty roles as the movie gives each one time and a different catalyst to turn against war.
Welcome to Dongmakgol is a movie which is never in a hurry. It is a journey you need to savor because the visuals along the way are stunning. The scene where the food storage explodes and all the corn gets blown up and falls down as popcorn is outstanding. The scene speed reduces so that the audience along with the actors enjoy the vision. Since the actors don’t explicitly explain their feelings a lot has been derived through the visuals. The last shot when all the bodies are covered in snow and the whole canvas is pure white highlights that the soldiers are finally at peace.
There are flaws in the movie, the biggest are the Allied soldiers and their intent. They are such an important part of the movie but never once they felt natural. Bad acting from some of them piles on to the frustration. At the end Welcome to Dongmakgol is a wonderful movie which says a lot without being explicitly voluble. Watch it as it is absolutely worth it and share your rating above.
Enjoy the Trailer: