71 Into the Fire is based on a story about a South Korean army platoon made up entirely of student soldiers who were tasked with protecting a strategic location against a vastly superior North Korean force. This tale of uncommon heroism stars Korean rapper Seung Hyun Choi who turns in an impressive performance under the direction of John H. Lee.
After experiencing the life and death realities of war for the first time, young Oh Jung-Beom is thrust in to the role of Captain over a platoon of student soldiers who are to hold a strategic position until reinforcements can be brought in to help out. With little to no training, this band of would be soldiers must learn very quickly what it means to defend their country and home from an overwhelming invasion.
Cha Seung-Won plays North Korean Commander Park Mu-Rang who defies orders to bring his army to what he thinks is a more strategically advantageous position behind enemy lines. After discovering the seemingly unprepared platoon of student soldiers that stands between him and a major battle at the Nakdong River, the commander hoped to use an unexpected advantage to help win the war.
What he does not expect is how this band of junior high and high school students is willing to lay down their lives and do everything they can to stop him from getting past their stronghold.
What stands out most to me about this movie is how amazing it looks on screen. John H. Lee is just as good at showing what it would be like to be caught in the middle of a firefight as he is at revealing the emotional impact of surviving that same battle after its over. Its hard to say the cinematography is beautiful given the subject matter, but everything has a very cinematic quality without being overly glossy.
What makes this such an important movie is how it sheds light on a struggle between North and South Korea that is commonly known as "The Forgotten War". Hopefully more stories like this will surface as there is no doubt that many more acts of heroism took place above and beyond what we see in this movie. These 71 student soldiers deserve a place in history just as much as anyone who has ever fought to defend their homes and hopefully their story will inspire even more to be told.
In the history of American cinema, we have movies like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and Glory among many others to help us remember what soldiers have gone through while participating in various wars around the world. I don't know much at all about the history of Korean cinema, but 71 Into the Fire seems like a major step forward in providing similar historical reference material and rivals some of the best war-related films that any country has ever produced.
If you have an opportunity to see this movie you do not want to miss out.