The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] Wandering through ‘The Long Way Home’

Film seeks to be both war drama and human comedy, but ends up being neither

By 이우영

Published : Oct. 1, 2015 - 17:57

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“The Long Way Home” is a film that seeks to address both the implications of war on a grand scale and the microscopic relationship between two individual soldiers, all the while providing wholesome family comedy, moving drama and high-quality battle scenes. None of these ambitious aims, however, are quite met.

Nam-bok (Sol Kyung-gu) is a farmer who has been drafted to fight in the Korean War and entrusted with the mission of delivering a crucial, top-secret document containing war strategies to ally troops. After an impromptu attack by enemy forces, however, he loses the document and becomes separated from his platoon. 
Still image from “The Long Way Home” (Lotte Entertainment) Still image from “The Long Way Home” (Lotte Entertainment)

Meanwhile, Young-kwang (Yeo Jin-goo) is a teenaged North Korean student and tank man who is just learning how to drive the vehicle. Due to a bombing, he too is separated from his unit. By chance, he comes across Nam-bok’s document and decides to return to the North with it.

The two unaccompanied soldiers end up bumping into each other in the fields of the Western front. A cartoonish cat-and-mouse chase ensues over ownership of the document, which later dissolves into an unlikely brotherhood when the two, detached from the political agendas of their respective regimes, realize that they are both only individuals who want to return home to their families. 
Actor Yeo Jin-goo plays Young-kwang (Lotte Entertainment) Actor Yeo Jin-goo plays Young-kwang (Lotte Entertainment)

At a press conference for the film on Sept. 15, director Chun Sung-il -- a screenplay writer making his directorial debut with “The Long Way Home” -- commented that he sought to paint “a dual picture” of war on a large scale and the individual plight of those involved. What would happen when two soldiers, both of whom do not really understand the big ideologies or motivations behind war, meet in person?

But these questions of warfare and individual sacrifice evaporate even before they are properly posed in a plot that is threadbare at best.

Granted, the contrast between the macro and the micro is continually highlighted, albeit incoherently. The battle scenes feature some intricate computer graphics work, with long, extended takes of explosions. The clumsy showdown between Nam-bok and Young-kwang, both inexperienced in combat, is captured in picturesque shots of the western fields. A cow moos, crickets chirp and the sun beats down on a lethargic pastoral setting that seems as far removed from warfare as possible. 
Actor Sol Kyung-gu plays Nam-bok (Lotte Entertainment) Actor Sol Kyung-gu plays Nam-bok (Lotte Entertainment)

In the end, however, “The Long Way Home” becomes as aimless as Nam-bok wandering alone in the fields, a hodgepodge of lofty musings, old-fashioned slapstick comedy and trite drama.

Meanwhile, the characters are adeptly enacted by the 18-year-old Yeo, who is rightfully anticipated by many to lead the next generation of solid actors in Korean cinema, and the veteran Sol, whose pathos-filled portrayals of the unsophisticated everyman need no introduction.

“The Long Way Home” opened in local cinemas on Sept. 24.

By Rumy Doo (