Don't let the opening scene fool you- there's very little real action here as the main important plot point is over characters deciding whether or when to run away. Which is in fact how wars are conducted in the real world. No one makes idiotic last stands for the sake of personal honor. In an actual life-or-death situation it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly which side has the upper hand, and at that point everyone, be they general or enlisted soldier, has to be alert for the best possible retreat.
Fortunately retreat is relatively easy because, again, "Jing Bi-rok" isn't depicting Hollywood style wars. The Japanese aren't going to break ranks and charge just to chase down a few stragglers, mainly because they're marching toward a more important goal. Besides, they're winning. The last thing the winning side wants to do is take stupid risks. It's not like they're going to run into the superstar who's going to turn the war around single-handedly. Lee Soon-shin is more of a boat guy, after all.
That leaves most of the dramatic flack this time to fall on King Seonjo- who once again spends almost all of his screentime just being sort of depressed. It's worth noting that while the production of "Jing Bi-rok" as a whole has been fairly good about portraying real rather than dramatized war, King Seonjo himself is very stubbornly motivated here by ideas of honor. This is absolutely not a good time to be thinking in those terms.
While these are all interesting ideas, "Jing Bi-rok", as usual, suffers somewhat from the generally repetitive format. I appreciate that this entire movement in the war is an important one- that the specific way the battles played out isn't actually all that important, and that this drama is based on a historical document by Yu Seong-ryong, so of course the man is going to principally discuss the events that he witnessed firsthand.
All the same, knowing that what I'm seeing is important doesn't necessarily make it exciting. "Jing Bi-rok" frequently feels more like a history lesson than a real drama. This isn't necessarily bad, but it's important to go into it with properly tempered expectations, as well as enough alertness that you don't start wanting to give in to general drowsiness. The depiction here really says a lot about the South Korean national character- but that's just the issue. "Jing Bi-rok" is more a national statement rather than costumed entertainment.
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 15"
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