No surprise here, The Yellow Sea’s title refers to the stretch of ocean between China and Korea. It is a complex story and I wouldn’t expect anything less from the director. You see, his first film was one of my all time favorites, The Chaser. As you know, after liberation from Japanese military empire at the end of World War II, north and south Korea begins terrible war and still sporadic battle is going on at their border. Our lead, Gu-nam is smuggled into South Korea, and he soon finds himself in the middle of a series of unexpected events, and the situation spirals quickly out of his control.
As I said in the first paragraph, The Yellow Sea is shot in Yanji, the capital city of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture where China borders with North Korea. By the geological and political environment, these Cho-Sun-Jok have close relation with north Korea but the booming economy of south Korea lures them. I believe it is this economic awareness that has brought the critical acclaim this film has received in recent months. The film screened in Cannes a few weeks ago, and it has become the first South Korean film to benefit from direct investment from an American studio. The actors who played lead roles in The Chaser also did the leads again. Especially the character Myun-Ga, played by Yun-Seok, Kim is the most brutal villain in the movie I’ve ever seen.
So is this film gripping? Absolutely. The violence is very abundant, in fact, the brutality is perpetrated almost exclusively with knives and hatchets. There seems to be enough violence for the gore hounds and enough story for the serious movie goer, so it really is a nice mixture of both. When I thought about why his character had to cross the Yellow Sea and the circumstances behind it, I felt the drama was very humanistic. Personally, I really liked the script. The power contained within the film, the characters that centered around the story are what made me want to review this film.
At well over 2 hours in length, this film has frantic action pieces as well as good character development. What more could you ask for? As the story escalates, so does the level of hell he’s put through. Take it as a warning, that by the time you finish this film you will be mentally exhausted. This director is definitely one to watch out for. The intrigue gets a little out of hand in the second act, with maybe a few too many twists to follow, but this can all be forgiven in the grand scheme of things. I recommend any South Korean film fan to seek this gem out.