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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Apr. 19, 2012 | 11:22 PM

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First things first.  Although director Je-kyu Kang claims to love it, the generic title MY WAY will not do this movie any favors, particularly as it attempts to crack the American market.  Kang’s film is at its most successful when it illustrates choices soldiers are forced to make when they find themselves in the worst imaginable conditions.  The film demonstrates that survival in battle can depend on dumb luck just as often as any conscious strategy. This is worth a mention because MY WAY is a stirring, old fashioned war epic with an inspiring and unlikely true friendship at its core, and it would be a shame if the nondescript title kept people out of the theatre..

The film opens in pre-WWII Korea, which has recently been occupied by Imperial Japan.  In the midst of this upheaval, we meet two young boys who decide to have a foot race.  The Korean, Jun-shik Kim, comes from a humble farm family, while the Japanese, Tatsuo Hasegawa, is from a wealthy family, already grooming their young son for his future as a doctor. It turns out that both boys possess blinding speed, and will end up facing off against each other in one way or another for a good portion of their adult lives.

Fast forwarding a good dozen years or so, the two rivals next face off in the marathon trial for the upcoming Olympic games.  Now on the cusp of adulthood, Jun-shik (Dong-gun Jang) and Tatsuo (Jo Odagirl) are worlds apart socially, but still fierce competitors on the track. When the race turns out to be rigged, Jun-Shik and a large group of friends find themselves conscripted into the Japanese Imperial army.

The vast majority of the film is an extended tour through the complicated geopolitical landscape of World War II.  There are Koreans fighting with the Japanese, Japanese fighting with the Germans, and Koreans trying to join up with the Soviets.  Through many bloody battles, Jun-shik and Tatsuo can’t seem to escape each other, and a remarkable, hard won friendship emerges.  Both Jang and Odagirl do outstanding work here, and whenever either of them is featured onscreen, MY WAY roars to life.

The film is less successful in its battle sequences.  While certainly graphic, the filmmakers rely heavily on CGI effects which make the whole enterprise feel like one long video game.  There have been plenty of films about World War II over the years, and Kang doesn’t add much that’s new.  Clocking in at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film could stand to lose a few explosions,

Overall, MY WAY is an impressively mounted, old-fashioned war epic that stands out from the pack due to the remarkable relationship at its center.  It’s also a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen for maximum impact.  Kang hits the “fastest runner” motif pretty hard at times, but its hard to deny the power of Jun-shik running down the sun-dappled beach at Normandie when you know that all Hell is about to break loose. 

MY WAY opens Friday, April 20th at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 in North Hollywood.  In Korean, Japanese, Russian, and German with English subtitles.


  1. It is going to be interesting to see how kang treats this esue.

    Posted by mtrainingsuccess on 08/07 at 11:42 AM
  2. Intersting also, his point of view on WWll.

    Posted by mtrainingsuccess on 08/07 at 11:44 AM