Most people in the West probably haven't heard of the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong, a maritime incident of war that took place between North and South Korea in The Yellow Sea in 2002. The so called 'Northern Limit Line' is a maritime boundary that sets the national borders between the two countries and both North and South Korea have different ideas of exactly where is starts and ends. The North has a history of testing the south and making frequent incursions over the boundary with its navy, presumably to test the resolve and readiness of the The South Korean Navy. One such incident involved 2 North Korean Warships which were challenged by 2 South Korean Warships. Just as it looked like North Korea was retreating it opened fire and thus began the above named battle.
The film tells the story primarily from the perspective of the crew members of South Korean patrol boat PKM 357. It's Captain, Lt. Cmdr. Yoon Young-ha (A superb performance from Mu-Yeol Kim) and several of the other crew who bore the brunt of the fighting during the incident. The film establishes the background of many of these key characters including in some cases their relationships outside of work, their families, partners and so on. These crucial scenes create the very humanity of each character so you feel fully connected to them emotionally when the events unfold further on. The film also gives some considerable screen time towards outlining the complex nature of the rules of engagement that the South Korean Navy have to tread on a daily basis. The film also covers a number of mistakes made in the lead up to the incident, including the failure to detain a North Korean intelligence officer who was disguised as a fisherman and passed on information about South Korean ship movements. The film is all the more poignant when one see's the real footage of the memorials of those who died at the end of the movie. Reminding us very firmly that this is not fiction and war causes pain and misery for all concerned.
Clearly a passionate subject for the films first time feature director, Hak-sun Kim, the film was shot in 3D thanks to a grant from the SK Arts Council but Crowd Funding still had to be sought to ensure the films completion when other investors backed out. So its to the credit of everyone involved that not only was the film completed by that the film itself is such a tremendous achievement. Hak-sun Kim does an incredible job with the action scenes and the blend of the CGI effects work is effective and not distracting as can often be the case these days.
Obviously this is a film told from the South Korean perspective though from reading factual accounts available on the incident I find it hard to believe the film stretches to far from the truth. Incidents of this type between nations are far more common that we are led to believe and NLL underscores the tragedy that always follows such events. This is a gripping, extremely well made film and it comes with my strongest recommendation.
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