71: Into the Fire (2010)


Introduction

71: Into the Fire (Korean: 포화 속으로) is a 2010 South Korean war drama film directed by John H. Lee and starring Cha Seung-won, Kwon Sang-woo, Choi Seunghyun (T.O.P), and Kim Seung-woo. The film was made in commemoration of those who fought during the Korean War, to raise awareness of the existence and importance of the student-soldiers during that period.

The film is based on a true story of a group of 71 undertrained and underarmed, outgunned student-soldiers of South Korea during the Korean War, who were mostly killed on August 11, 1950, during the Battle of P’ohang-dong. For 11 hours, they defended the local P’ohang girls’ middle school, a strategic point for safeguarding the struggling Nakdong River perimeter, from an attack by overwhelming North Korean forces, specifically the feared 766th Unit.

Outline

South Korean student Oh Jang-beom is a volunteer militia soldier in a battle inside Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province during the Korean War. As the city is overrun by the 766th Unit, 5th Division, Korean People’s Army, he is pulled into a squad of South Korean soldiers led by Lieutenant Kim Jun-Seop attempting escape. However, the unit is eventually cut down to only Lieutenant Kim and Jang-Beom. A North Korean suddenly shoots and bayonets the lieutenant; Jang-beom, due to his inexperience and terror, is unable to save him. They are found by other South Koreans, and barely get aboard one of the last trucks out of the town to a hospital in Pohang, where Lieutenant Kim dies with a guilt-ridden Jang-beom at his side.

Capt. Kang orders Jang-beom to lead a newly-raised student-soldier unit, as he is one of only three of the volunteers with combat experience. The unit is joined by three young criminals led by Ku Kap-jo, who challenges Jang-beom’s command, and accidentally destroys the students’ food supply. Later, while patrolling, they are attacked by a KPA sniper who leads them into an ambush. The students suffer heavy casualties before disengaging. The students’ morale is decimated by the disastrous encounter. The students call Capt. Kang for aid, but the regular forces are pinned at the Nakdong River. Kang pleads with his superiors to help the students, but they refuse to divert resources from the critical Pusan front. They do, however, allow Kang to go, and he gathers vehicles and a small force of South Korean soldiers to relieve the school.

One of the student-soldiers, Dal-Young, is captured by the 766th Unit and is interrogated by Major Park Mu-Rang. Mu-Rang takes pity on the student and orders his return to the school, going there himself to assess the students’ strength. There, he tells Jang-Beom that he and his men will, in 2 hours, capture the school, and offers to spare the defenders’ lives if they raise a white flag. Kap-Jo beats Dal-young and fights Jang-beom before deserting with a friend, Chang-wu, for the Pusan Perimeter. Shortly after leaving, the two encounter a North Korean truck filled with supplies and weapons, stuck in a road.

The remaining students prepare to defend the school, raising not a white flag but the South Korean national flag, while Major Park makes his own preparations for the assault. When the attack begins, the students are able to inflict devastating casualties on the North Koreans, but are eventually forced back. Suddenly, the North Korean supply truck roars in, driven by Chang-wu and Kap-jo, carving their way through the North Koreans, halting their attack as well as bringing valuable heavy weapons to the students.

Under the cover of a tank, the 766th’s men reach the school building and kill off most of the students. Jang-Beom and Kap-Jo fight their way through the North Koreans inside the building to the roof of the building, where the others have fitted machine-guns. On the roof, Jang-beom and Kap-jo try to hold back the North Koreans.

Just as Jang-beom and Kap-jo run out of ammunition, Capt. Kang and the South Koreans arrive. They destroy the North Korean tank and steadily defeat the North Korean infantry in the school grounds. At the roof, as Jang-beom collapses from exhaustion and his wounds, Major Park arrives and kills Kap-jo. While Park gloats, Jang-beom quietly loads his rifle and shoots Park just as Park also shoots him. The Major is later killed by Captain Kang. Jang-Beom dies from his wounds as Kang comforts him.

It is revealed that of the 71 students, 48 died defending the school. The movie ends with a flashback, with an Army photographer taking a group picture of the student-soldiers before the regular troops leave for Pusan, and the surviving student-soldier veterans, now old, reflect on their experiences.

Cast

  • Cha Seung-won as Major Park Moo-rang.
  • Kwon Sang-woo as Ku Kap-Jo.
  • Choi Seung-hyun as Oh Jang-beom.
  • Kim Seung-woo as Captain Kang Seok-dae.
  • Park Jin-hee as the nurse.
  • Ronald G. Roman as Major General John H. Church.
  • Kim Sung-ryung as Jang-beom’s mother.
  • Yeom Hye-ran as nurse.

Production

The film’s first working title was 71, then Into the Gunfire. Filming began on 01 December 2009, with help from Ministry of National Defence (T.O.P. was injured during the filming), and finished on 13 April 2010.

Release

The film opened in South Korean theatres on 16 June 2010. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Cine Asia on 14 March 2011.

Box Office

During its theatrical run, the film drew 3,358,960 admissions at the box office, making it the fifth highest-grossing film of 2010.

Awards

  • 2010 Icheon Chunsa Film Festival: Jury Prize (71: Into The Fire).
  • 2010 Grand Bell Awards: Korean Wave Popularity Award (Choi Seung-hyun).
  • 2010 Blue Dragon Film Awards: Best New Actor, Most Popular Actor (Choi Seung-hyun).
  • 2011 Baeksang Arts Awards: Best New Actor, Most Popular Actor (Choi Seung-hyun).

Trivia

  • The climactic battle in the movie was a part of the Battle of P’ohang-Dong, from 05 to 20 August 1950.
    • Savage fighting broke out as the North Koreans attacked the UN forces, consisting of American and South Korean soldiers, in an attempt to take the town of P’ohang-Dong on the northeast corner of the Pusan perimeter.
    • Despite being pushed back initially, the UN forces regrouped and eventually defeated the North Koreans, forcing their retreat.
    • It was a turning point in that it effectively broke the back of the North Korean offensive, which was beginning to suffer from superior UN support and a lack of manpower and supplies.
  • The American troops seen in the film are from the 25th Infantry Division “Tropic Lightning.”
    • This is evidenced by the distinctive unit insignia worn on the soldiers’ left shoulders, in that of a strawberry-like taro leaf with a bolt of lightning in the centre.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • John H. Lee.
  • Producer(s):
    • Myoung-gy Choi … producer.
    • Tae-won Jeong … executive producer (as Tae-won Chung).
    • Hyun Gil Jo … producer.
    • Jong-hyun Kim … producer.
    • Kwang-ik Son … executive producer.
    • David Tadman … features producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Man-Hee Lee … (screenplay).
    • Dong-Woo Kim … (original story).
    • John H. Lee.
    • David Tadman … (writer: documentary unit).
  • Music:
    • Dong-jun Lee.
  • Cinematography:
    • Chan-min Choi.
  • Editor(s):
    • Steve M. Choe.
    • Changju Kim.
  • Production:
    • Taewon Entertainment.
    • UBU Film.
    • H Plus Communication.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Lotte Entertainment (2010) (South Korea) (theatrical).
    • Festive Films (2010) (Singapore) (theatrical).
    • Golden Village Pictures (2010) (Singapore) (theatrical).
    • Lotte Entertainment (2010) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Kadokawa Pictures (2011) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Ascot Elite Home Entertainment (2011) (Belgium) (all media).
    • Showbox Media Group (2011) (UK) (all media).
    • Trinity Filmed Entertainment (2011) (UK) (all media).
    • Kam & Ronson Enterprise Co (2013) (Hong Kong) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 16 June 2010 (South Korea).
  • Rating: 15.
  • Running Time: 120 minutes.
  • Country: South Korean.
  • Language: Korean.

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