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Northern Limit Line: DPRK Belligerence in the Yellow Sea
is always hardest on the soldiers and sailors who serve on the brink. Such has
definitely been the case along the naval boundary that serves as an extension
of the 38th Parallel, dividing South and North Korea. The ROK
battleships guarding against incursions are forbidden from engaging DPRK forces
first, regardless of their provocations. This ironclad rule of engagement is
just fine with the North. In fact, they were counting on it during their sneak
attack timed to coincide with the 2002 World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and
Japan. The resulting Second Battle of Yeonpyeong is dramatized with scrupulous
respect for the historical record in Kim Hak-soon’s Northern Limit Line (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in the Tri-State Area.
Yeong-ha had only been captain of PKM 357 a short time before the fateful
Northern Korea attack. As the ambitious son of Yoon Doo-ho, a former officer
still respected by his colleagues despite his fall from grace, Capt. Yoon is determined
his high-profile tour of duty patrolling the Northern Limit Line (NLL) will
advance his career. For the crew of PKM 357, this means a whole lot of drills.
Nevertheless, Capt. Yoon starts to warm to his men, especially his helmsman, CPO
Hang Sang-guk. Of course, the South Korean team’s unprecedented World Cup drive
also helps unify the skipper and his crew. Unfortunately, it also provided an
opportune time for the DPRK to strike.
is always the case, there were signs of the high seas ambush coming, but Kim
makes it clear they were not adequately analyzed or acted upon. Needless to
say, the men of PKM 357 did not give up without a fight. In fact, their heroic
last stand is the bruising spectacle centerpiece of the film, running over half
an hour’s worth of carnage. Arguably, NLL
constitutes some of the best cinematic warfighting since Fury—and Kim does it on boats.
his screenplay devotes even more time to humanizing the men of PKM 357.
Throughout the first half of the film, we learn in no uncertain terms, medic
Park Dong-hyeok is devoted to his deaf mother, petty officer Jo Chun-hyoung has
a baby girl who just celebrated her first birthday, CPO Hang has nerve damage
in his hand and a soon to be pregnant wife, while Capt. Yoon and his colleague
Capt. Choi are ambiguously attracted to each other. Kim’s sympathies are
admirable, but a lot of the preamble to battle-stations could have been
tightened up considerably.
the cast is first-rate, including the appropriately youthful Lee Hyun-woo, who
barely looks old enough to graduate from high school as Park the medic. Jin Goo
and Kim Ji-hoon are also terrific as the intense CPO Hang and easy-going Jo,
respectively. Not to be spoilery, but many of the primary ensemble have death
scenes and they each carry it off convincingly, but also with dignity. Yet, it
is Kim Hee-jung who really lowers the boom as Park’s mother.
of the naval action we get in movies happens below the water in submarines, so NLL’s clash of battleships is in itself
distinctive. However, the real mind-blowing fact is that the dynastic Kim
regime could launch such a blatant act of aggression and face no real
consequences from the global community. That just guarantees they will do it
again. NLL provides a timely reality
check, as well as delivering some very human drama and smashing sea battle set
pieces. Recommended as a very strong naval war film and a moving tribute to
South Korea’s fallen heroes, Northern
Limit Line opens this Friday (7/17) in Queens at the AMC Park Terrace, in
New Jersey at the Edgewater Multiplex, and in Los Angeles at the CGV Cinema.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Second Battle of Yeonpyeong