Choi Min-sik — the actor best known for "Oldboy," the 2003 Cannes
winner remade last year by Spike Lee — assumes the role of legendary
Korean Adm. Yi Sun-shin in "The Admiral: Roaring Currents."
film depicts the storied real-life battle of Myeongnyang in 1597, when
Yi led 12 ships to fend off a fleet of 330 from Japan near what is today
the South Korean island of Jindo.
By that point, more than 10,000 Korean men had perished in a valiant but
losing effort in the Imjin War. Yi defied a royal order to join forces
with Korean Gen. Kwon Yul and instead embarked on what most regarded as a
suicide mission to stall the Japanese invaders en route to the capital,
Hanseong (now Seoul). The decision caused much dissension and
rank-pulling, to the point that Cmdr. Bae Seol (played in the film by
Kim Won-hae) conspired to assassinate Yi.
The film recounts how despite setbacks, the admiral studied currents and
found whirlpools that he could use to his advantage. It's fascinating,
even if director Kim Han-min does little to help make sense of the
The film pays lip service to humanizing the antagonist Cmdr. Kurushima
Michifusa (Ryu Seung-ryong), explaining his personal vendetta. But who
cares? The sea battles are absolutely epic, more realistic and thrilling
than John Woo's 2008 "Red Cliff" or even Peter Weir's 2003 "Master and
Commander: The Far Side of the World."
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