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(Movie Review) 'The Long Way Home': Predictable but warm, humorous war movie

All Headlines 14:09 September 16, 2015

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) - Any surprises in the story of two soldiers -- one from the South, the other from the North -- scuffling over a classified military document during the 1950-53 Korean War?

Many moviegoers might predict a plot in which the two try to kill each other at first and become friends at last, with a tearful farewell to their home countries at the end, as both Koreas remain separated since the war.

And they would be right because the film "The Long Way Home" does not move an inch from that path, to the disappointment of many. It also is a very slow-tempo movie with many blank spaces like a traditional Korean black-and-white painting, which some viewers might find boring.

But what fills the blanks is a brilliant performance by the two lead actors -- Sul Kyung-gu and Yeo jin-gu. Their doofus episodes and idiotic conversations reminiscent of "Dumb and Dumber" give unexpected humor for those who only expected a war drama. The film also has spectacular battle scenes and a message of inter-Korean reconciliation through the friendship of the two soldiers.

Sul played Nambok, a 40-something ignorant farmer conscripted to the war, who leaves his wife and newborn at home. Nambok is put on a mission to deliver a classified military document that may decide the fate of the war but loses it while under attack from the enemy. He then comes to face a young North Korean soldier named Yeonggwang (played by Yeo) who happens to acquire the secret document on his way to the North. He is the lone survivor of an air bombing that killed all of his comrades.

Yeonggwang is an ordinary high schooler who joined the army and became the youngest member of a North Korean tank unit. After being told by his dying superior that he would face being shot to death if he abandoned the unit's tank, he becomes desperate to drive it to the North.

Nambok also desperately chases Yeonggwang, knowing that he will face death if he goes back to his army unit without the secret document.

They then confront each other inside the North Korean tank, with Nambok trying to retrieve the secret document and Yeonggwang refusing to return it, dreaming of becoming a hero when he goes back to the North with it.

It is the directorial debut for scriptwriter Cheon Sung-il, who wrote "The Pirates," a 2014 box-office hit that drew 8.66 million viewers and "My Girlfriend is an Agent" seen by 4 million people in 2008.

The film is scheduled to open in local theaters on Sept. 24.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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