Marking the return of writer director Kang Je Gyu seven years after the massive success of 2004’s Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War, My Way is an epic tale of war, inspired by true events. Set during World War II, My Way tells the story of the forced conscription of Koreans into the Imperial Japanese Army through the eyes of two elite marathoners.

The film opens with a runner taking the lead in the marathon at the 1948 Olympic Games in London; We quickly flashback twenty years earlier, to Korea under Japanese occupation. Two young boys—one, Tatsuo, the grandson of a prominent Japanese official, the other, Jun-Shik his Korean servant—compete in a footrace, establishing the metaphor for national conflict. Shots of their running feet transition from this playful moment, to what is obviously competition.

My WayAs the boys grow older, tensions between the Japanese and Koreans have grown. By 1939, both Jun-Shik (now played by Dong-gun Jang) and Tatsuo (Jo Odagiri) are competing for a spot on the Olympic team. Jun-Shik wins but finds himself denied the victory because he is Korean. A riot ensues and before long, Jun-Shik is drafted into the army. He will bump into Tatsuo again, only now his rival is a brutal colonel—and still his rival. Their dislike is both cultural and competitive. Even so, through the brittle evolution of battle, the two become necessary friends.

The first battle erupts just twenty-five minutes in, and the action scenes just keep coming. Bodies are crushed under tanks, ripped apart by bullets, suspended from gibbets, shoved into crematoriums. One of realistic (read: gory) depictions of the horrors of war, this film isn’t for the squeamish. Costing a reported $25 million, My Way spares no expense when it comes to blowing the heck out of everything on the screen. Kang filmed with shaky handheld cameras to further emphasize the mass confusion that takes place on a battlefield.

Though My Way is a film about fighting for survival, Kang Je Gyu tells the story with characters that are largely devoid of any real emotion. Jo Odagiri one note performance appears to be a product of the script, while Jang’s lack of range makes real reflection impossible. In an effort to negate this, several side characters are introduced and killed off quickly to try and induce sympathy. This accounts for some of the film’s 143 minute running time, which some will find hard to get through.

Still, while a stronger script would have been welcome, this doesn’t prevent My Way from being a very interesting, if flawed, Korean World War II film. What it lacks in emotion it makes up for with stunning visuals and amazing battle scenes.

Framed at 2.39:1, Well Go USA’s 1080p transfer has a few noticeable issues. While the movie is visually stunning, contrast occasionally shows blown out whites and grayish blacks. At other times, scenes are nicely balanced with solid blacks and shadow delineation. Colors look natural throughout and flesh tones look normal. Resolution is very good, particularly during close-ups.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack is rather dynamic. A dubbed version is offered though I used the Korean language track with English subtitles. You may want to be aware that the subtitles go by quickly. I watched the English dub briefly, and its fine if that’s preferred. In general, dialogue is clear but lacks any real spatial delineation. Sound effects and atmospherics are impressive, as they are spread throughout the entire soundfield. Deep bass and LFE is effective in enhancing the war scenes. The orchestral/choral music score provides emotional support throughout. The sound mix here is very good.

The following special features are inclided:

  • Making-of-Featurette (9:03, HD) Standard stuff here. Interviews with cast and crew, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage.
  • Interview with Jang Dong Gun and Director Kang Je-Kyu (5:52, HD) The actor and director discuss their experience making the film and some of its themes.
  • Trailers (HD) U.S. Theatrical, International and U.S. Home Video.