The budget for fake blood in this film must have been through the roof!
Kim Sung Su
Jung Woo Sung, Ahn Sung Ki, Joo Jin Mo and Zhang Ziyi
September 7, 2001
Set in 1375 (3 years before Korea recognised the return the Han rule as rightful) a diplomatic mission from Goryeo to Ming China are arrested as retaliation for the death of a Ming diplomat.
They are led across a dessert however Mongul raiders appear, There are a few deaths on the Korean side however the Monguls leave the remainder alive (after killing all the Ming Chinese people) as they have no quarrel with Koreans (at this stage Korea still recognise Mongols as the rightful rulers of China).
The General takes control of the group of Koreans as the diplomats are dead. They discover the Mongols have kidnapped the Emporer’s daughter so they ambush the convoy and rescue her.
Yeosol, a former slave of one of the diplomats, defeats the Mongol general Rambulwha in single combat, but allows him to live and escape (big mistake buddy!).
The Koreans pledge to return the princess to safety, In order to compensate for the failed diplomacy mission. However the Mongols are not all that keen on this and give chase hoping to recapture the princess to present to their Khan.
The princess tells the Koreans about a coastal fortress where they can find safe haven, and a boat, and the Koreans head off towards it.
To make things just a bit more complicated the group pick up some Chinese peasants who were fleeing from the Mongols.
Lot’s of fighting ensues, no one really likes each other and typically two dudes mange to, despite the imminent danger they are in, fall for the princess and clash over their feelings for her.
Hooray, they get to the fortress. Less Hooray, It’s an abandoned semi ruin.
Oh look, the Mongols are here to and set up a siege.
Lots of almost last stands follow, including one poor young boys heroic water gathering death. The princess decides to save everyone’s life by giving herself up for the second time, however this time she goes through with it. Well, Almost, what she actually does is get about halfway out before she is convinced to return. Genius that she is this causes another death.
Then there is a final showdown where EVERYBODY DIES! The peasants and the princess wait for rescue at the fortress, and the ONLY surviving Korean sails off in a little boat.
I really liked this film, but honestly the amount of onscreen rather graphic deaths may not be everyone’s taste. It does also have some of the typical drama ‘what the hell’ moments, like the slave and general fighting over the princess.
I did like the fact that not everyone was heroic and just used to violence, sometimes historical drams portray everyone as remarkable warrior folk used to death. Live by the sword, die by the sword is all well and good but why would a trader, peasant or princess behave like that?