If you had to list the greatest naval warfare films — specifically ones focused on surface combat as opposed to submarine action — how many of them would be movies released in this century? You’ve got Peter Weir’s Master and Commander in 2001 and then… what? (Sorry, but the Pirates of the Caribbean films are not great, and I’m not currently drunk enough to allow an argument for the inclusion of Battleship.) The challenge grows only slightly easier if we extend the time frame to films released in the last fifty years and remove the “greatest” qualifier.
For whatever reason, filmmakers just aren’t making ocean-set tales of war these days. Odds are it’s a cost issue, and that’s a shame as the sub-genre (not to be confused with the sub sub-genre) is one rich with exciting true-life stories and opportunities for incredible action and visuals.
Happily, South Korean director Kim Han-min (War of the Arrows) didn’t get the memo on avoiding naval warfare movies. His latest feature, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, recounts one of Korea’s greatest military battles, a 16th century incident that saw Admiral Yi Sun-shin (Choi Min-sik) sink over 300 Japanese ships with only a dozen Korean vessels at his command.
Check out the official trailer below.
Before I comment on the trailer’s actual content I want to point out that identifying Choi for his work in Lucy and then Oldboy is just patently offensive. I know Luc Besson’s film is new and currently sitting atop the box office, but good god people — The Quiet Family, Shiri, Failan, Lady Vengeance, I Saw the Devil, Nameless Gangster, New World — I’m just asking for some perspective here.
The film obviously takes advantage of CGI for the epic shots of the Japanese invaders, but the production also went old school and built eight full-size ships from period-authentic materials. Judging by the trailer they then turned around and shot most of them to pieces. Combat looks to be a fun mix of cannon fire and boarding party shenanigans, and happily Choi’s character doesn’t appear to be shy about wading into the fray.
Admiral Yi had lost his position and been disgraced for crossing the country’s king, but after a particularly decimating attack by the Japanese Yi was reinstated as a last ditch effort to save the navy. His strategic mastery has become the stuff of legend in Korea, and while it’s unclear (without reading Yi’s Wikipedia page) if his efforts ended up as more like David vs Goliath or 300 it looks to be an exciting ocean-set adventure the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time.
The Admiral: Roaring Currents opens in its home country today and sails into U.S. theaters on August 15th, 2014.