I've come around to the portrayal of Hideyoshi as being a crazy madman mostly because the more I think about it, the more applicable this depiction is to anybody who tries to declare war on another country. A person pretty much has to be deranged on some level to think that it's possible to bend an entirely different culture to his personal will. To some extent it's certainly possible to accomplish this via force, but time and again history has shown such efforts to be inevitably doomed to failure.
The Japanese do "succeed" in these initial attacks, but that's a very odd way to describe a task where the goal is just to build an endless mountain of corpses. And of course plenty of civilians are killed in the crossfire, because it's really super hard to attack a residential area where people actually live without accidentally killing some people who aren't in uniform. Accident, ha, that's a good one. Sure, that's right, the guys who came prepared to murder as many people as possible in the name of their nebulous goal only killed civilians because circumstances forced them to. After all, they were throwing rocks.
Anyway, distressing allegory for modern military conflict aside, the plot is pretty much the same as usual. King Seonjo once again completely fails to react properly to the situation. It's rather unsettling how little confidence is inspired by seeing Korean troop movements. This is war on an international scale and the Korean government has consistently failed to appreciate the magnitude of what's happening.
This isn't the case for people on the ground. A few clumsy missteps notwithstanding, the Korean commanders in the local areas under attack are quick to figure out what's going on. They mount the best defense they are able to and struggle to persevere in hand-to-hand combat. The problem is everyone is just too badly overwhelmed by the superior tactical planning of Japanese forces.
Even though nobody important dies this episode, quite a few of the deceased Koreans here are given distinct names and personalities. The ensemble cast, like the characters they portray, are not famous faces but they do the best they can with what they're given, and ultimately fall because they were let down by superiors. It's distressing to think how many of these men, had they not had such bad luck, looked like they had the courage necessary to be the protagonists of a more uplifting drama. But then that's what "Jing Bi-rok" is all about- actual history doesn't easily segue into traditional narratives. People just die.
Review by William Schwartz
"Jing Bi-rok" is directed by Kim Sang-hwi and Kim Yeong-jo, written by Jeong Hyung-soo and Jeong Ji-yeon and features Kim Sang-joong, Kim Tae-woo, Im Dong-jin, Kim Hye-eun, Lee Kwang-ki and Lee Kwang-ki.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jing Bi-rok" Episode 13"
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