Blu-ray Review: THE FRONT LINE (Well Go USA)

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
The Front Line is the third war film from Well Go USA that I've reviewed in recent weeks. The first, My War, was distributed theatrically by CJ but has a Well Go Blu-ray/DVD release on the horizon, and the last was the superlative Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, which is currently enjoying unexpected success in its theatrical run. The natural consequence of seeing three similarly themed films so close to one another is the urge to compare, though I will attempt to curb that yen, as it isn't really all that valid. The Front Line is a solid war film with a lot going for it. It starts off a bit slowly, but it roars through it's ending leaves an impression after the credits roll.

In the waning days of the Korean War, the Aero-K Hill is a hot commodity in the battle between the northern and southern armies. It is a strategically important landmark, and the two armies fight tooth and nail to gain control. As a result, the rather evenly matched forces gain and lose the hill on a regular basis, leading to pointless bloodshed as more and more soldiers lose their lives in what has become little more than an evenly matched match of tug of war. The warring sides both realize the futility of their positions and form a wordless bond that connects them to each other and their mutual frustration with the war and its senselessness.

There's little more than I can say about the film that doesn't involve revealing multiple spoilers. The second half of the film relies on a series of reveals to propel the plot forward, which means that I can't give any hint of what happens that redeems the film from a lackluster first half, but trust me, it's worth the ride.

Shin Ha-kyun delivers an engaging performance as a military intelligence officer sent to sniff out a spy who ends up deeply involved in the lives and fates of the men on this final front line. The film does tackle the final battle of the Korean war, before the truce was signed, and it does so with aplomb, delivering visceral action and carnage, and not flinching from the horrors of war, nor the effect that war has on its participants. The inanity of these battles is brought into stark relief in the final minutes of the film, when the truce is signed, but the war doesn't end right away. It is brutal in its revelation of the absurdity of battle, and the people who crave it.

The somewhat unengaging opening segment of the film seems to lack impetus, simply pushing the film toward the "good stuff", but lacking much in the way of emotional resonance. Thankfully, that is remedied in spades once Shin Ha-kyun's character meets up with his unit and tears begin to flow. I really enjoyed the last 90 minutes of The Front Line, and if you can make it through the first half hour, I think you'll find a lot to like as well.

The Disc:

Well Go does it again. Despite my opinion of some of the cinematographic choices in the film (it is awfully bright, and the staging is wonky in the first part), the Blu-ray looks outstanding. WGUSA have yet to unload a stinker when it comes to modern films, and this is no exception. Detail is remarkable, colors are intense and piercing, and the transfer shows no signs of damage or excessive manipulation. The sound mix is also damned intense, as one would expect with a war film. The surrounds get a good work out and you will want to crank up your subwoofer, because this film brings the noise!

The Front Line doesn't get Well Go's banner treatment like Let the Bullets Fly, instead it gets a more modest Blu-ray release with some basic extras. In this case we get an EPK style making of featurette and something called "Highlights", which is essentially a greatest hits action package for the film, as well as the trailer. Nothing to write home about on that front.

The Front Line
is a very good war film, with an excellent performance from the always dependable Shin Ha-kyun. Check it out!
Special Features:
- Making of
- Highlights
- Trailer
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