Original Title: 마이 웨이
Languages: Korean, Japanese, German, Russian, English, Mandarin
Genres: Historical, War, Drama
Director: Kang Je-kyu
My Way is directed by Kang Je-kyu, who wowed the world with his previous war epic, Taegukgi. The story takes place in Japanese-occupied South Korea, following two boys: the Korean Kim Jun-shik and the Japanese Hasegawa Tatsuo.
In 1928, Jun-shik and his family work as farmers for the Hasegawa family, but both boys, despite differences in class and ethnicity, ignite a small spark in friendship because of their mutual love for running. But when the boys are teenagers, Jun-shik’s family is ousted from the Hasegawa home when Jun-shik’s father accidentally delivers a bomb to Tatsuo’s grandfather, a high ranking military official.
When they are adults, Jun-shik (Jang Dong-gun) and Tatsuo (Odagiri Joe) get conscripted into the Imperial Army. In 1939, Tatsuo is now a colonel who gets placed in charge of the unit Jun-shik and 100 other Koreans are in. Tatsuo is ruthless and is blinded by nationalism, shooting anyone who would run away from battle. Jun-shik is the only one who stands up to Tatsuo’s plan to use all the Koreans in a suicide mission against the invading Soviet force.
For his actions, he is placed in a holding cell along with Shirai (Fan Bingbing), a Chinese sniper taken prisoner for shooting Japanese soldiers. Jun-shik’s friends come to their rescue and go on the run. However, they and a number of Japanese soldiers (including Tatsuo) are captured by the Soviets and imprisoned in a POW camp. It’s at this point that Jun-shik and Tatsuo start to form an unusual bond that evolves into an unlikely friendship.
My Way takes us on an interesting journey about friendship in the midst of insanity, hate, and war. The two lead characters have all the reason to fight each other; Jun-shik and his fellow countrymen are oppressed by Tatsuo and his. Their relationship in the first half of the story is filled with fists and anger.
When they become POWs at the Soviet base, both share the experiences of being tortured and forced into labor, leading up to the moment when Tatsuo is standing face to face with his own insanity in the form of a Soviet leader shooting soldiers fleeing from the battlefield. The prideful Tatsuo’s nationalism is also tested when he realizes the country he puts his life on the line for is doing nothing to rescue him and his fellow soldiers.
While the film does an excellent job at character development, especially for Odagiri Joe’s character, the film’s war and action sequences may be a bit too chaotic for some to follow. The film has also been knocked for its editing and its cheap-looking CG, making it look like director Kang is trying to follow in the footsteps Michael Bay. Despite the Hollywood approach, none of that takes away from enjoying the film.
However, the one thing that felt unnecessary was the character of Fan Bingbing – Shirai. She didn’t really do anything as a supporting character to help steer any character development, but rather it felt she was added in to make the audience hate the Japanese even more (as many Korean films might do). That or, give the audience something pretty to look at.
Overall, My Way is nowhere near as powerful as director Taegukgi. However, it is indeed a must-see for any fans of war epics. The star power is immense, and the passionate acting will draw you in.
Watch this film if…
…want to see two of Asia’s veteran actors team up in a war epic, filled with so many explosions that Michael Bay would be proud.