September 15, 2015

The Admiral: Roaring Currents: Hope Floats Eternal

Not to sound too pompous or show-offy but I've taken to re-reading the works of William Shakespeare of late and I remember feeling very conflicted about Henry V in particular. How could I reconcile my own enjoyment of the play with the historic drama's outright pro-war sentiment? But then I saw Kim Han-min's blockbuster The Admiral: Roaring Currents and it all became clear: They're both underdog stories. Think of the St. Crispin's Day speech, how the English militia had the numbers stacked against them, how the odds-on favorite ended up losing... Now transport the action from the fields of Agincourt circa 1415 to the waters of Myeongnyang Strait circa 1597.* Heighten the drama by having the little guy defend instead of attack. Then picture this: Korea has 12 battleships versus Japan's fleet of over 300.

But Korea also has Admiral Yi (played by Choi Min-sik who I like a lot better than Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Brannagh). Yi's an ailing, wizened, crafty, old leader who values patriotism much higher than survival. (He's not the type who retires early for veteran's benefits.) He may not have the numbers of the Japanese or the creepy face-mask of his rival leader, the Pirate King (Ryu Seung-ryong) but he's got a tactical way of thinking that leads him to torch the sailors' houses so they have to commit to their ships and later plays a game of peek-a-book with a sniper thereby putting his own life in danger so an archer can arrow the gunman in the eye. Yi also gets advice from the dead, who inspire him to lure the Japanese ships into a heaven-sent whirlpool. Spirit contacts can be very useful during wartime, you know? Especially when your exasperating son (Yul Kwon) is still asking "Why is the sky blue" type of questions, despite his age. Famous person's child syndrome?

*Strange coincidences: While researching this movie review, I discovered that Shakespeare wrote Henry V shortly the after The Admiral's climactic battle took place in Korea. Furthermore, Great Britain is about 80K square miles while South Korea is just over 84K square miles.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting take, I like your introduction it was a bit different. It had a nice hook that made me want to keep reading.