The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Korean: 명량; Hanja: 鳴梁; RR: Myeongryang), or simply The Admiral, is a 2014 South Korean epic action-war film directed and co-written by Kim Han-min. Based on the historical Battle of Myeongnyang (1598), it stars an ensemble cast led by Choi Min-sik as the Korean naval commander Yi Sun-sin.
The film around the titular Battle of Myeongnyang circa 1597, regarded as one of legendary Joseon admiral Yi Sun-sin’s most remarkable naval victories, in which he led the only 12 ships remaining in his command to a heroic victory against an invading Japanese fleet numbering 333 vessels.
At the onset of the battle at their base in Haenam, the Japanese invaders under Tōdō Takatora are confident that their planned expedition to Hansong to capture King Seonjo will meet with success. This despite the fact they remain reserved over the news that Joseon’s greatest admiral, Yi Sun-sin, has been restored to his former command following the disaster at Chilcheollyang, which has reduced the Korean navy to a mere dozen battle-ready ships. In order to ensure success of the operation, Hideyoshi sends one of his finest naval war leaders to Joseon: Kurushima Michifusa, the commander of the Murakami Clan Navy, and an expert in naval combat who, however, enjoys a shaky reputation among his fellow daimyō as a pirate. One of the Admirals of the Japanese Left Army, Wakizaka, first meets Kurushima and his lieutenant Kimura while finishing off the remnants of a group of Joseon soldiers. He is especially distrusting of Kurushima, and draws his sword on him several times, especially after the latter insults him by shaming his defeat at Hansan Island. Later, Kurushima and Haru, his sharpshooter, drink sake as Kurushima elaborates on his personal vendetta against Yi Sun-sin, stating that his brother Michiyuki was killed by the latter earlier in the war.
In the meantime, Yi Sun-sin is facing the despair mounting among his officers and troops. Facing an enemy force far outnumbering them, and seeing no reasonable chance of success in the inevitable clash even with one single turtle ship remaining, many consider the fight lost before it has even started. Despite his outwardly indifferent demeanour, Yi is hard-pressed to maintain morale among his men and desperate to find a solution for his problem. But then the breaking point seems reached when General Bae Seol, the deserter of Chilcheollyang, burns the turtle ship and has his men make an attempt at Yi’s life. Although Yi escapes and Bae is killed for his act of treachery, the ship is lost, boosting confidence among the Japanese and further dispiriting his own troops. In order to seek an answer, Yi travels to the Myeongnyang Strait, an area notorious for its strong and treacherous currents which the Japanese intend to cross on their way to Hansong. Later, he confides in his son Hoe that, in order to win the fight, he has to turn the fear paralysing his men into courage. Upon hearing that the departure of the Japanese attack fleet is imminent, Yi abandons his base and moves to Usuyeong after burning the naval facilities to the ground.
The next morning, Yi’s fleet arrives in the strait and is shortly met by the Japanese, who are using the morning tide to move into the channel, with Kurushima leading the avantgarde force. Yi engages Kurushima’s fleet in battle, but as the other Korean commanders are still hesitant to involve themselves, Yi’s flagship is quickly surrounded and attacked by boarding parties. In this apparently hopeless situation, Yi commands several cannons to be fired from the rower deck’s port hatches in a concentrated volley, using their recoil to blast the ship free of its encirclement. As Yi has hoped, this bold act of survival inspires the rest of his countrymen to take the fight to the enemy.
When the tide turns and forms a whirlpool in the middle of the channel, thus beginning to solidify Yi’s defensive position, Kurushima orders an all-out attack with the rest of his ships. Despite the efforts of Haru and a ship loaded with black powder charges, the renewed courage of the Koreans prevails, though heavy sacrifices are made. Kurushima’s now desperate situation is observed by Todo, who merely laughs at Katō’s suggestion of reinforcing him. Kurushima, realising that he is now on his own, boards the Korean flagship, but is decapitated by Yi himself after taking several arrows from Korean archers, and his head is hung from the tip of the ship’s mast. When Yi’s ship itself is caught in the whirlpool, his civilian navy servants and local fishermen courageously drag the vessel back to safety. Joined by the rest of the fleet, Yi leads a counterattack which deals the Japanese forces a crushing blow, forcing them into retreat and leaving the Koreans triumphant. The film ends with the reminiscence to the first encounter of the Japanese with the turtle ship in 1592.
- Choi Min-sik as Yi Sun-sin.
- Ryu Seung-ryong as Kurushima Michifusa.
- Cho Jin-woong as Wakisaka Yasuharu.
- Kim Myung-gon as Tōdō Takatora.
- Jin Goo as Lim Jun-young, Yi Sun-sin’s scout.
- Lee Jung-hyun as Mrs. Jeong, Lim’s wife.
- Kwon Yul as Yi Hoe, Yi Sun-sin’s son.
- No Min-woo as Haru.
- Kim Tae-hoon as Kim Jung-geol.
- Lee Seung-joon as Captain Ahn.
- Ryohei Otani as Junsa, a Japanese defector and spy for Yi Sun-sin.
- Park Bo-gum as Bae Su-bong.
- Kim Won-hae as Bae Seol.
- Kim Kang-il as Katō Yoshiaki.
- Lee Hae-yeong as Captain Song.
- Jang Jun-nyeong as Lieutenant Nah.
- Moon Yeong-dong as Kim Dol-son.
- Yoo Soon-woong as Elder Kim.
- Kim Gil-dong as Captain Hwang.
- Choi Deok-moon as Captain Song.
- Park No-sik as Captain Kim.
- Kim Hyeon-tae as Ok-hyeong.
- Kang Tae-young as Kimura.
- Kim Gu-taek as Bae Hong-suk.
- Joo Seok-tae as Katsura.
- Jo Bok-rae as Oh Sang-goo.
- Go Kyung-pyo as Oh Duk-yi.
- Nam Kyung-eup as Kwon Yul.
Box Office (South Korea)
The Admiral: Roaring Currents drew 682,882 viewers on its first day in theatres on 30 July 2014, grossing US$4.77 million. This was the all-time highest opening day box office in South Korea, for both a foreign and domestic film, breaking the previous record set by Kundo: Age of the Rampant. It went on to set other new records: highest opening weekend, with 3.35 million admissions (US$25.94 million), surpassing Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s record of 2.37 million (set in 2011) by 41%; biggest single day for a film in South Korean history with 1.25 million admissions (US$9.71 million); the first time that a film generated over ₩10 billion in a single day; and the quickest film to reach 10 million admissions.
By 15 August, The Admiral: Roaring Currents became the all-time most-watched film in South Korea, breaking the previous record held by Hollywood blockbuster Avatar (13.62 million). By 17 August, it became the first film to sell more than 14 million tickets in South Korean theatres and the first domestic film to exceed the US$100 million mark. At 17,607,820 admissions, it has grossed US$132 million in South Korea.
Box Office (International)
It opened in limited release across 30 theatres in North America, beginning 15 August 2014. Due to favourable reviews from critics and moviegoers, it expanded to 42 theatres on its second week, and its first week gross of US$1.18 million surpassed the previous record held by Masquerade (US$923,442) as the highest-grossing film directly distributed by a South Korean distributor. The film has grossed CN¥26.53 million in China, US$2,589,811 in the United States, and US$138.3 million internationally.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Kim Han-min.
- Producer(s): Kim Han-min.
- Writer(s): Jeon Chul-hong and Kim Han-min.
- Music: Kim Tae-seong.
- Cinematography: Kim Tae-seong.
- Editor(s): Kim Chang-ju.
- Production: Big Stone Pictures.
- Distributor(s): CJ Entertainment.
- Release Date: 30 July 2014.
- Running Time: 127 minutes.
- Rating: 15.
- Country: South Korea.
- Language: Korean and Japanese.