Look out, Train to Busan. The Battleship Island is coming for ya.
For someone who does not watch Korean dramas, action-packed movie The Battleship Island was a massive hit for me.
Similar to 2016's Korean blockbuster movie Train to Busan, The Battleship Island absolutely captivated me with its thrilling action sequences, a driving plot, and an impossibly charismatic cast, such as up-and-coming child actress Kim Soo-Ahn (Train to Busan) and heartthrob Song Joong-Ki (Descendants of the Sun).
The Battleship Island gives a fictional account of events that occurred during the Japanese colonial era, when about 400 Koreans from all walks of life were forced into slave labour as coal-miners on Battleship Island, or "Hashima Island".
Despite initial disharmony and mutual mistrust, the captives share similar dreams of freedom, and eventually band together to stage a valiant escape from the island.
The movie follows the lives of four main characters who are tricked into coming to the island and consequently forced to mine coal,
all the while peppered with propaganda from the Japanese forces running the island.
The characters are flamboyant jazz musician Lee Gang-ok (Hwang Jung-Min), his young but intelligent daughter Lee So-hee (Kim Soo-Ahn), a street fighter Choi Chil-sung (So Ji-Sub), and a strong-willed comfort woman Oh Mal-nyeon (Lee Jung-Hyun).
After a series of events that reveal the true brutality of the Japanese forces, with the help of suave Korean independence fighter Park Moo-young (Song Joong-Ki), the group bands together to fight their way out of the island and towards freedom.
As the movie draws to a close, Kim Soo-Ahn's distraught character turns unexpectedly to look directly at the camera, the setting sun illuminating the tears, blood, sweat and grime on her 11-year-old face, but most of all, the look of immeasurable pain in her eyes.
For me, this was the most poignant moment in The Battleship Island.
The haunted expression on Kim's face alone almost brought me to tears, because in that instant, it made me realise that children are probably the hardest-hit victims of war.
The amount of psychological damage and trauma inflicted on children of war is irreparable, to say the least, and Kim conveyed all this with a single expression. To think she is only 11 years old!
You might recognise child actress Kim Soo-Ahn (above) from 2016's Train to Busan.
Heartthrob Song Joong-Ki's appearance as Park Moo-Young, a suave agent from the Korean Independence Army, was also nothing short of charismatic.
His cool and collected demeanour throughout the movie left little doubt that his character was a force to be reckoned with. And he has definitely proved once again that he has what it takes to be both an action hero and a beloved Korean idol.
If you are a fan of Song Joong-Ki, this film is a must-see!
Song Joong-ki takes on a darker role in The Battleship Island as Korean independence fighter Park Moo-young.
Apart from the stellar acting, I really enjoyed the stunning visuals and cinematography, as well as the surprisingly realistic sound effects which often left me on the edges of my seat.
The Battleship Island also makes a good attempt to shed light on the impact of war atrocities, as well as the unnecessary suffering endured by civilians caught up in war.
At the same time, it shows a softer side by depicting how the worst times can often bring out kindness and generosity in people. What I found particularly touching was the love Hwang Jung-Min's character clearly shows for his daughter, despite his constant chastising.
Hwang Jung-Min and Kim Soo-Ahn show strong chemistry as a lovable father-daughter duo.
Overall, this was a great movie with well-written dialogue and breath-taking action sequences. I would definitely recommend it for everyone, although viewers should note there was the use of coarse language and some especially gory and graphic scenes.
While I did find its plot fairly predictable, just like the critically-acclaimed Train to Busan, there were a couple of unexpected twists at the end.
But don't worry, we won't reveal any spoilers! Catch it yourself to find out.
The Battleship Island will be showing in cinemas on Aug 17.