Silmido | Chicago Reader


Kang Woo-suk broke box-office records in South Korea with this 2004 epic loosely based on a little-known chapter in the country's history. In 1968, 31 death-row prisoners are reprieved by the national government, transported to a remote island by a secret military unit, and trained for a mission to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung. Isolation and rigorous conditioning forge a surreal bond between the commandos and their recruits, and in a reversal of the Stockholm syndrome, the captors begin to identify with their newly created hyperpatriots. The wide-screen action is fueled by a high-octane machismo reminiscent of John Milius and Robert Aldrich (whose classic The Dirty Dozen is an obvious touchstone here), but the yearning for national reunification is quintessentially South Korean. In Korean with subtitles. 133 min.

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