The Tiger Blu-ray Review
The Old Man and the Tiger
Writer/director Hoon-jung Park teams up with leading man Choi Min-shik for The Tiger an elegiac and symbolic tale of the Japanese hunt for the last Korean tiger.Set almost a century ago, when South Korea was under the oppressive control of the Japanese, the story follows an old Korean hunter - now little more than a drunk - who is reluctantly coerced into joining a hunt commissioned by the Japanese military, who are seeking to rid the country of the last vestiges of its national symbol: the Tiger. Hoon-jung Park's 2015 film is a very thinly veiled socio-political commentary on the ruination of Korea at the hands of the Japanese (ironically, the film's very existence highlights perhaps just how far Korean cinema has come in terms of reversing the dominance over Japanese cinema). Unfortunately it does take a somewhat heavy-handed approach to a hunting tale which would have better worked if played simply as Korea's answer to Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.That's not to say that The Tiger doesn't captivate in its charting of the plight of Choi Min-shik's weathered old hunter against the cold and unforgiving snowy backdrop and even less forgiving Japanese military state, but Park appears too intent on hammering home points which were easy to get with merely the premise of a Japanese hunt for Korea's last tiger, without turning the beast into a mystical entity and giving Choi Min-shik a wayward middle act of drunken instability before he hits his impressive emotional stride. It's still a beautiful tale which is elegantly paced and mostly survives on a minimalist approach to tiger CG (which, upon closer inspection, is a little dodgy), giving the creature a Jaws-like bent and, eventually, letting the bitter hunter on his fated hunt dominate the narrative.
Picture QualityTwo years after it was made, 2015's The Tiger finally comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka at the tail end of 2017, delivered with a striking and richly textured 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen.
A striking and richly textured video presentation
Detail is rather excellent really, favouring close-ups, but also made noteworthy through the stunning snowy backdrop which sets the stage. Facial texturing affords the weathered and frequently scarred characters the finest of observations, with whispy hair, tattered clothing and worn firearms on display. The mountains bring rich woodland trees to juxtapose against the snowy peaks, and the film more often than not looks like a picture postcard in its beautiful cinematography. The colour scheme, while hardly afforded much material that would qualify as vivid, does have some more vibrant tones, and is rounded off by solid blacks that allow for strong shadow detail. Perhaps the only jarring aspect, which takes it down a notch, is in the realm of VFX, where the rendering of the giant tiger often requires an inherent softness on the surrounding image (aside from not always impressing in and of itself). Aside from that its very impressive.
Sound QualityA remarkably impressive audio experience
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is in the film's native Korean language, delivering the elegant and suitably understated score as a backdrop for the rest of the track's key elements, affording dialogue clear prioritisation across the frontal array whilst effects get free rein over the surrounds. Even the effects, however, are rather subtly used to shape the track, allowing the array to drop to near-silence to absorb the footfalls on crackling underbrush only to unleash the roar of the tiger full-tilt at unsuspecting moments. It's an unusual and effective source of weight in a nominally underplayed sonic offering, which does have a few cracking rifle shots, or thunderous truck rumbles, but largely subsists on quiet and tense minimalism peppered by angry (or even sorrowful) roars. It, too, is remarkably impressive.
ExtrasWhat isn't impressive is the complete lack of extras
Blu-ray VerdictA very thinly veiled socio-political commentary on the ruination of Korea at the hands of the Japanese
The Tiger impresses most when heavyweight veteran actor Choi min-shik is centre-stage, battling the elements, the tiger, and his own inner demons. It is better as Korea's answer to The Old Man and the Sea, with plenty of subtle symbolism to read into the situation without the rather heavy-handed approach that Park takes to the material, which hammers home its points about Japan raping Korea at every turn. Nevertheless it's an elegant and powerful film, even if it dilutes its message with overwrought symbolism.
Eureka's Region B-locked Blu-ray release of The Tiger was worth the wait on the technical front, with excellent demo video and audio, even if the complete lack of extras is a little bit surprising. Nonetheless the film comes recommended to fans of Korean cinema, and Choi min-shik alone is worth your time in pretty-much anything.
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