Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War review

The Brotherhood of War

The Brotherhood of War, directed by Je-kyu Kang, is a 2004 Korean film about two brothers caught up in the national tragedy of the Korean War. The older brother is large, strong and shines shoes for a living with the hopes of becoming a shoemaker. His younger brother is 18 years old and the pride of the family because he is going to college. We first meet these brothers in a happy time when their future looks bright and the older brother is planning to get married. Suddenly, war is upon them and the family is forced to flee their home in Seoul. The two brothers are forcibly drafted and we soon see them on the battlefield.

The older brother is determined to protect the younger one. He risks his life to go on dangerous missions because he knows that if he receives a medal, the younger brother will be able to get out of the army. Somewhere along the line, the older brother turns into a monster of aggression. Not only does he show exceptional bravery, he also shows exceptional cruelty. The battles are gruesome, real and better than any I have ever seen. I understand that the director accomplished this with a very small budget, and I have nothing but applause for him for this effort. There’s a human side of every battle, and I felt real emotion watching them.

This story goes deep into the heart of Korean national identity. Both sides are equally cruel to ordinary villagers who are just trying to survive. One thing is clear, and that is the bond between the brothers. This is a serious film about brotherhood, and a film about Korea. Actually, it helped me understand what is happening there today.

The film is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and it didn’t drag for one single moment. Something new is happening constantly. Whether it is the relationship between the brothers, the different kinds of battles, or the horror in Seoul when the South Koreans are executing North Korean sympathizers.

If you hate watching war films, stay away from this one. This is surely one of the bloodiest war films I’ve ever seen. If you are interested in history and in the impact war has on people, this film will help you understand. It might haunt your nightmares, but it is certainly worthwhile. War film buffs especially should make a note to check this one out. Highly recommended.


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I'm an absolute film buff, and love writing about movies and TV. I'm particularly a fan of Asian cinema and hope to introduce people to truly great films from that region.

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  1. Pam Walker

    One of my all time favorite war movies. Great execution by the two main cast members, totally believable. I have been following both of their careers since. I did see the older brother in a rather dull American film quite recently though.

  2. Mike G

    It truly is a fantastic film. There’s so much emotion and it’s felt throughout. Thanks for reading!

  3. Tatijana

    I’m not a huge fan of war films :(. But I do find people and culture interesting. And generally even war films portray enough of this. From your review it sounds like this one is no different.

  4. Having a relative that fought in this war, I can say that the portrayal seems accurate.

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