Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Admiral: Roaring Currents Review (2014)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Reinstated Admiral Yi Sun Shin is faced with an seemingly insurmountable task of defending Joseon against the invading Japanese navy. His force of 13 warships with very low morale faces a Japanese navy of over 300 ships intent on sailing straight to Hanyang. The King had already issued an order to abandon the ships while the units under his command are wavering at the insurmountable odds. How will the Admiral make this last stand?

*Spoiler warning*

This adaption of the consequential Battle of Myeongnyang depicting the legendary Admiral Yi Sun Shin certainly met the high bar of expectations. The gravity of the historical setting is clearly conveyed to the viewer and the storytelling is excellent. I did have two minor issues with the adaptation that perhaps are just stylistic differences but took a little away from the story for me. With regard to the explanation of tactics towards the end of the battle, I was following most of the tactical developments until near the end when I became unsure where each of the ships and fleets were positioned. This was not explained further as more action takes place but it would have been nice to clarify it for those interested. Secondly, I felt the use of the civilian refugees were a little melodramatic; personally, I would've opted to go without them.

Choi Min Sik gave a commanding performance as the titular admiral depicting his courage, tenacity and wit in the maelstrom of battle.  He exuded gravitas and leadership throughout and gave a resounding portrayal of a universally hailed hero. Ryu Seung Ryong did a good job as his adversary Kurushima although his helmet was a tad distracting. There were a number of recurring supporting actors who all did a decent job without taking away from the main performances.

I have to say I was quite impressed with the musical direction. Aside from the fairly solid pieces used for the action sequences, I was particular struck by the careful and deliberate use of silence at selected points in the movie. The sudden dynamic contrast in the music and sound effects contributed towards some very effective scenes. Emotions are heightened and the rapt attention of the audience is clearly drawn. Superb work in this area that made for a compelling watch!

To be honest, I was moved to tears several times in this movie. The rallying of the troops scene, the first glimpse of the Japanese navy and the admiral's flagship standing alone all had this effect. The storytelling was powerfully poignant and the initial storytelling to describe the setting was wonderfully done. Aside from the minor qualms I had with the slight melodrama and the confusion over the exact final battle tactics, this movie definitely achieved the effect it was aiming for and was a great pleasure to watch.

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