My Way

Racking up a truly staggering bit-player body count, the Korean World War II epic My Way marshals an overbearing score, turbulent handheld camerawork, and a punishingly brief average shot duration toward the story of two archnemesis long-distance runners who form an unlikely alliance amid the welter of world war. The film, co-written and directed by Kang Je-kyu, gets under way in Japanese-occupied Korea, where peasant local Kim Jun-shik (Jang Dong-gun) and well-heeled Tokyo transplant Tatsuo Hasegawa (Joe Odagiri) go toe to toe several times as young men, the rivalry reaching a head when imperial higher-ups strip Jun-shik of his rightful Olympic qualification. A couple of years later, in 1939, they both find themselves at the Mongolian border—Tatsuo as a sadistic colonel and Jun-shik as a forced conscript who takes a stand when his superior sends all the Koreans on a suicide mission to destroy Soviet tanks. When Tatsuo orders Jun-shik's execution, the latter simply runs away, the first of many last-minute escapes from certain death managed by the two fleet-of-foot main characters. Each CGI-enhanced battle scene (Kang appears to have a Michael Bay–ish fondness for showing combat vehicles massed in formation) effects a realignment of the Jun-shik/Tatsuo dynamic. As they meet again in a whiteout Russian P.O.W. camp and then as Nazi prisoners at sunny Normandy Beach, bad blood gives way to a deepening mutual reliance. Perhaps the most charitable thing that can be said about the 143-minute marathon My Way—with a reported budget of almost $25 million, the costliest Korean motion picture ever produced—is that it does nothing by halves.

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