Brotherhood DVD Review (Region 2)

Seth Gecko

retired member
<P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='' ALT='BROTHERHOOD DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>BROTHERHOOD</FONT><br>Reviewed August 2005 by <A HREF='search.php?do=process&query=Cas Harlow&showposts=1&forumchoice[]=107&forumchoice[]=197' target='_top'>Cas Harlow</A>.</P><P><B>The Movie : 9</B></P><P>Korean cinema has produced some fantastic delights recently, from unusual horrors like Shutter to masterful thrillers like A Bittersweet Life, which should be ranked up there alongside masterpieces like the Ring trilogy and the Infernal Affair trilogy. Then there’s Oldboy, which should have a genre all to itself, an instant classic in much the same way as the recent Sin City. Korea has truly come a long way in the last half a dozen years and now we get a seminal portrayal of the Korean war, gaining much acclaim and a worthy comparison to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan to boot.</p><P>When things reach boiling point, the communist North Korea kicks off an incursion into the South which results in all-out war. Desperate to make up comparable numbers, Southern recruits are drafted indiscriminately – as long as they are over 18 and able to see, hear and walk, they are bundled off to fight. Amongst those poor young souls caught up in the draft are two brothers – Jin-Tae and Jin-Seok. Jin-Tae, the older of the two, previously worked a shoe-shining stall just to pay for his younger brother, Jin-Seok to go to college and have a decent life. After the younger man is dispatched to war, Jin-Tae leaves behind his loving girlfriend and mother to protect his brother, making sure that every step of the way they are fighting side by side. Realising that the only way to return his younger brother safely home is by winning the much coveted Medal of Honour and gaining enough stature to make the request, Jin-Tae throws himself into the fight with every ounce of his strength. He single-handedly turns around battles, captures enemy Commanders and secures enemy gun emplacements as if he were invulnerable, but before long the horrors of war get to him and Jin-Seok begins to doubt his older brother’s true motives for success at all costs.</p><P>Brotherhood paints a gritty, brutal but very human portrayal of a horrific time of conflict, following two true heroes as they struggle to survive. In my opinion, it is well worthy of comparison with Saving Private Ryan, boasting a more streamlined vision with equally devastating scenes of war and a more engaging political stance. Sure, the concept of ensuring that one brother returns home to his family is drawn parallel between the two films, but the way in which they evolve the characters in this war movie is far superior. Jin-Tae starts off with one clear mission – to save his younger brother – but an hour into the movie you are wondering how far he will go and whether or not he is indeed doing it all for Jin-Seok, or whether all the glory is actually getting to him.</p><P>The story is made utterly compelling and resoundingly convincing largely thanks to a superb lead performance by Jang Dong-Gun as the gallant but conflicted Jin-Tae. Managing to convey every ounce of passion that this desperate soul contains, he does a stellar job and will hopefully be granted suitably starry roles following on from this. Although largely told from his perspective, it is sometimes difficult to bond with the confused younger sibling Jin-Seok, despite an admirable effort by Won Bin. Clearly affected in a different way by the horrors of the war, he simply cannot condone the actions of his older brother, irrespective of the reasons behind them, occasionally making him a difficult character to side with even with his more humane principles. We also get superb support by the late Lee Eun-Joo as Yung-Shin, Jin-Tae’s faithful girlfriend, who tries desperately to hold the family’s life together whilst the brothers are off fighting. It is worth noting that Oldboy himself – Choi Min-Sik – pops up fleetingly as an expectedly almost unstoppable battle-hardened North Korean Commander.</p><P>The writer/director of the excellent Shiri (which is probably the first major modern Korean film to enter my collection) has created a epic war film for a tenth of the budget of comparable Hollywood creations but of equal stature. With a multitude of brutal, artillery-devastated action sequences fully capturing the feel of such a massive confrontation, alongside a well-chosen cast of solid actors performing to a solid, moving script, the end result marks yet another key point in Korean Cinema history and yet another key film in anybody’s collection.</p><P><B>Picture : 8</B></P><P>Brotherhood is presented in a glorious 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Shot using the same de-saturated colour palette and step-printing editing as Saving Private Ryan, we get a similarly gritty, visceral visual offering. The detail is superb with clarity throughout despite an intentionally heavy layer of grain. The colour palette is slightly bleached and restricted – again intentionally – but the scenes never fail to convey the brutality of the conflict and the harshness of the sometimes snow-swept mountainous terrain. Overall it is a superb transfer, making the most of issues that would be problems for most transfers but here only go to enhance it.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='BROTHERHOOD'></P><P><B>Sound : 8</B></P><P>We get several magnificent audio tracks for this release, unfortunately on the rental copy that I was given to review there was just one track – the main Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in the original Korean language with optional English subtitles that were largely good. This mix is pretty full-on, with dialogue – often shouting – coming clearly through the frontal array and the moving score carrying you through the voyage, again primarily from the fronts and centre. In fact, the rears are kept almost solely for ambient effects (tanks rolling past, people cheering etc.) leaving the rest of the channels to bear the brunt of this movie. Luckily whenever a skirmish or an all-out confrontation erupts, this mix somehow manages to pull everything together and create a world of mayhem and explosions, bullets whizzing around you and shells shattering the ground before you – and that’s exactly what you want with a war movie. The final retail discs should also contain a DTS mix in Korean along with a Dolby 5.1 track in English, obviously dubbed.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='BROTHERHOOD'></P><P><B>Extras : 8</B></P><P>The first disc is supposed to contain a commentary by Asian Cinema Experts Bey Logan and Mike Leeder but unfortunately I was only supplied with the rental version so I could not listen to the commentary. Being familiar with many Logan commentaries, I would suspect that he is at his usual fast-talking best, hopefully assuaged by the presence of another person with whom he can interact. It’s a shame because this is one of the more important films that I would have liked to have heard a commentary for, still those who purchase the set should be happy with the end result.</p><P>The second disc is split into three sections – The War Room, Making History and Ministry of Propaganda. In the War Room we get a ten-minute ‘Battle Plans’ sequence which is basically a storyboard-to-screen comparison for several key scenes: praying to their father, departing on the train, first clash, first losses, political executions and the final confrontation. The crudely drawn storyboards fairly closely match the final product and it is quite nice to see some of the original ideas seen through to fruition.</p><P>Next in the War Room we get Special Operations, a twelve-minute featurette boasting interviews with a couple of the major crew members, talking about their work on the film. The director notes how long it took him to put his plan into action and one of the producers recalls how it was originally called the ‘War Project’ because no one had come up with a proper film title. They chart the history of the concept and how it was finally put into action. There is real footage from the Korean War video that the director watched whilst preparing for the movie and some interesting discussion on how they tried to temper it for both North and South Korean audiences – focussing on the horrors of war per se and making it globally enthralling. This is quite a nice little featurette that is worth your time.</p><P>Honoured Dispatches is a fifteen minute War Room featurette that again basically comprises interview footage with the director paired with another one of the producers, this time talking about the budgetary constraints of the project and how they overcame them by carefully choosing locations, props etc. The original planned budget was much greater than what they were forced to work with in the end, mainly due to the economic state of both Korea and Korean cinema at the time. Although slightly drier and more focussed on the economics than anything else, this is still quite an interesting little interview compilation.</p><P>Finally in the War Room we get the twenty-minute Captain’s Orders section, which is basically just an extended interview with the action director Jung Doo-Hung, talking about how they made the fight scenes look so good. He talks in an overly philosophical way, coming across as extremely patronising, but occasionally some of his comments about the way they film certain scenes – inter-spliced with footage of the relevant sequence – are interesting to hear. There is a little too much final film footage but we do get a bit of behind the scenes combat footage during the preparatory stages and whilst the first half is slightly meandering, it picks up towards the end with talk of how they did their own stunts and how they had a huge number of extras and a ludicrously small budget in comparison with movies like Saving Private Ryan.</p><P>The next section is Making History, within which we get three parts – History Through the Lens, Brotherhood and Tears of Fire, which can be played together as one long sequence, reaching nearly an hour and a half in length. Again we get plenty of interview footage with the director and other crew members, talking about everything from how they filmed a lot using hand-held cameras, to the blood and visual effects and the evolution of the tremendous score. The Brotherhood part looks at the characters and the relationships, the central strand of familial honour that courses through the movie and how they conveyed it. The final section is longer than both of the other sections put together and takes a more global view of the production, putting it into perspective in light of the fact that this was one of the most successful Korean movies ever. There’s footage from the post-production celebrations, plenty of behind the scenes footage and on-set interviews with many of the major cast and crew members. There are even a few shots of scenes that did not make it into the final cut and lines that were removed. Of all the featurettes, this is probably the most packed and the most interesting – particularly since it adopts a more documentary-style approach rather than the basic interview style of the other featurettes.</p><P>The Ministry of Propaganda section contains a Don’t Look Back in Anger featurette that runs at twenty-four minutes in length and purports to tell the truth behind the war. It is a mish-mash of black and white archive footage from the war itself and interviews with veterans who saw the horrors first hand, all reporting their experiences. It is quite interesting to watch – and some of the tales are harrowing – leaving you wanting to watch the movie again having understood more about the reality behind it. Under this Propaganda section we also get two trailers for the main movie.</p><P>Just to round of the disc there is a small section dedicated to Premier Asia releases – The Warrior, The Grudge, the superb Ong-Bak, Volcano High and a couple of others, all with trailers.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='BROTHERHOOD'></P><P><B>Trivia</B><br><P>For user information we use Bitrate 1.4 to scan the disk for the video bitrate, which also calculates the average bitrate. Below is a graph illustrating the bitrate of the disk, including the average bitrate reading. This disk averaged at 6.7 Mbps.</p></P><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='BROTHERHOOD'></P><P><B>Verdict : 8</B></P><P>Brotherhood is a magnificent military epic founded on a solid story about brotherly duty, honour and trust. With some fantastic performances, superb cinematography and a rousing score this is a serious competitor to Hollywood counterparts. This release is also pretty superb, with a solid transfer, several decent audio tracks and almost every conceivable extra packed into the two discs. For war film enthusiasts, Asian cinema aficionados and generally just anybody who loves a decent epic masterpiece, this is well worth your time – not just worthy of a rental but an outright purchase. I would be very surprised to find anybody disappointed.</p><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>TAEGUKGI HWINALRIMYEO (2004)</B><A HREF='' target='_blank'><IMG SRC='' WIDTH='121' HEIGHT='18' border='0' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' ALT='Comparison feature coming soon'></A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genres</TD><TD><A HREF='' target='_blank'>WAR</A>, <A HREF='' target='_blank'>ACTION</A>, <A HREF='' target='_blank'>DRAMA</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Director</TD><TD><A HREF=' KANG' target='_blank'>JE-GYU KANG</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Stars</TD><TD><A HREF=' JANG' target='_blank'>DONG-KUN JANG</A>, <A HREF=' WON' target='_blank'>BIN WON</A>, <A HREF=' LEE' target='_blank'>EUN-JU LEE</A>, <A HREF=' KONG' target='_blank'>HYEONG-JIN KONG</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>2</B> <FONT>(UK)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Premier Asia. Released Monday 5th September 2005</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>19.99</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Discs</TD><TD><FONT>2</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Format</TD><TD><FONT>DVD9</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Time</TD><TD><FONT>144 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>30</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>Korean Dolby Digital 5.1<BR>Korean <IMG SRC='' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' border='0' ALT='DTS Soundtrack'> 5.1<BR>English Dolby Digital 5.1</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>English</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>Commentary<BR>The War Room – 4 pre-production featurettes including interviews and storyboard comparisons<BR>Making History – 3 production documentaries<BR>Ministry of Propaganda – Trailers and Archive Footage<BR>Premier Asia Previews</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>


Active Member
great review for a great movie.....loved this film,made me cry like a bitch at the end!


Well-known Member
Another good review :)

Watched this a while back and have got to say this is in my top 5 films of all time. To say its good is a understatement. Korean films are the way forward at the moment :)


Picked this out of the video store as an outside bet as I've never heard of it before and boy did I get lucky, this film is superb.

The fact that a film of this quality was a chance discovery blew me away, I never expected it to be anywhere near as good as it was and throughout I gripped from start to finish, the battle scenes are second to none and if you have a decent surround system the sound is devastatingly effective.

If you miss this this or you're not thoroughly entertained then you're as crazy as the commies who started this war in the first place.

Best war film I've seen in a decade and to think Pearl Harbour was in the same section in the DVD shop is criminal, this is a masterpiece.


Well-known Member
got a small problem but i bought this disk on monday when it came out and no option for english [dubbed] any one else got this problem


Well-known Member
I actually just finshed watching this and was surprised at how good it was all round!

I watched the R2 Japanese version and found the DTS (korean language) track to be some how "hollow".

It made me worry a bit so i may need to try a few other films on my system to see if its that film/DVD or if theres something wrong with my system. (better not be!)


Active Member
:thumbsup: this film is amazing. have had the R3 sitting about for absolutely ages, only recently got around to watching it. the way it is filmed has a real gritty edge to it.

left me thinking 'whoa' after watching it


saw this last year and plan to rewatch the dvd soon (now that i finally got my 5.1 speakers).

there was one scene which i thought was handled flawlessly. it involves someone's girlfriend being framed as a Communist. so much tension in that scene alone.

Deleted member 16384

Watched this last night, one of the best war films ever made


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