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[HanCinema's Image Gallery] "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" @ 24fps


Kim Han-min's "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" @ 24fps…

There are so many films flashing furiously past our eyes nowadays that it's hard to remember some of the devilish details, moments, and ideas from our favourite features. Add to that all the music videos, T.V. series, news broadcasts, digital advertisements, YouTube playlists and gaming, and it might well start to feel like there's an insurmountable backlog of compelling content, and you'd be right (sooner or later). Our lifetime is slowly being replaced by digital dream streams that if we were to watch all the classics, the critically acclaimed, personal recommendations and cultural must-sees, our lives would no longer have a convincing anchor in reality, and screen-time would be our only time.

As a cinephile, and a person, this upsets me. And while I don't have any immediate answers to dealing with the sheer size of one's DVD collection or external (digital technologies have indeed left our feeble lifetimes far behind), I have a suggestion for at least reflecting on cinematic time given and enjoyed.

Sure, screenshots from films are readily available online and a plenty, but this digital dumping does little to counter the existential crisis of a true cinephile. I want to relive magic moments, sublime shots and sequences, and remember details like the costume design, dialogue, lighting, framing, and so on. Nothing excessive (Google is aptly named), just a humble 24 frames to remember, share, and celebrate before the next wave. Enjoy!

#1 Yi Sun-sin (Choi Min-sik) is depicted right away as a tortured and tired sea dog. The film opens with a few seconds of bloody punishment (Yi was jailed, abused, and humiliated on a few occasion throughout his legendary lifetime), and here we see him suffering the discontent among his own captains.

#2 "The Admiral" depicts the famous "Battle of Myeongnyang" (1597) between the Joseon Navy (what was left of it anyway after Won Gyun's cataclysmic defeat at Battle of Chilchonryang) and the Japanese imperial fleet led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Yi Sun-sin (with just 12 panokseon) took on an invading Japanese fleet more than ten times his own. Kim shows us the extent of the threat in this stunning long shot.

#3 Korea's most loved admiral kept detailed written records of his life (private and official), and his 'War Diaries' (Nanjung Ilgi, 1592-1598) were recognised by UNESCO in 2013 and place on the "Memory of the World Register".

#4 Here's the first glimpse we get of Gurujima's private sniper in action; later she's be picking off sailors across the Myeongnyang Strait.

#5 Enter Yi's fearsome foe-Gurujima, played by Ryu Seung-ryong. The mask is a nice touch of terror, the gaudy imperial costumes (in general) not so much.

#6 History tells us that Admiral Yi Sun-sin was a man of the people, and despite the political storms raging around him, he remained a true hero for the people, by the people. In Kim Han-min's tale the civilians play a rather important part, and throughout the genius of one man is supported by various collective contributions by 'lesser' lives (town's fold, rowers, etc.) that, ultimately, help secure victory. In this scene we are introduced to a sub-plot of a lowly and dedicated messenger (married to a dumb bumpkin) who's seemingly small actions cause ripples that affect the fate of Yi and, in turn, Joseon itself.

#7 Unlike Yi, Gurujima is drunk with arrogance. In this scene involving the Japanese generals, he boasts that his hand will crush Joseon's lame legend and guarantees absolute victory.

#8 Choi Min-sik is looking more like Dae-su from "Old Boy" in this scene. Here he wakes up from a nightmare to find his precious ship has been torched. You could argue he never woke up at all.

#9 Like any good hero on a journey, Yi receives knowledge from an old wise man. In this case, it's vital intel as to the nature of Myeongnyang's currents. Here Yi spies the straight and pieces together his epic plan.

#10 Again, Yi's writings are an important part of his legacy, and Kim considers the process in detail via a textured close-up as an inky quill streams along on the page like a ship at sea.

#11 Immediately after we see the Japanese armada break the horizon, Kim cuts to under the waves for effect.

#12 This is why statisticians aren't historians.

#13 Yi's main ship had a host of monks on board offering their spiritual support. Yi tells them that their mere presence gives him courage, but it's their blades that really come in handy when the heat is on.

#14 Another sleek shot of the weaponry wielded (looking brand-spanking new like everything else in the film).

#15 Here's a great slow-motion shot of blood droplets splattering our Admiral's tough face.

#16 Perhaps my favourite moment in the entire battle sequence: After successfully dealing with the first wave of Japanese ships, Yi is quickly surrounded and the game seems up. He orders his crew to haul the canons below deck, stack them, and let loose. The results are awesome.  

#17 Overall the special and visual effects were adequate, but not as stellar or subtle as I'd hoped. There are a few shots such as this, ones that follow projectiles as they are launched and land amidst the madness.

#18 Kim closes this sad side story out with heart by having our messenger peasant perish for the greater good.

#19 When an animal nears its end it tends to lash out. Here, Gurujima (bloody and losing) jumps across onto Yi ships to confront the man that ruined his glory…

#20…But it's clearly not Gurujima's cause the gods are favouring, and Yi ensures he loses his head for his arrogance.

#21 Once again the lowly peasants pitch in and ensure history happens.

#22 This is great moment: after it's clear that battle is won, Kim takes us below deck and shows us a long take of the crew exhaling from the battle.

#23 A brief and peaceful denouement between father and son.

#24 Kim closes his blockbuster with a few quick glimpses of the ship that Admiral Yi Sun-sin would become famous for: the Turtle Ship.


- C.J. Wheeler (@WoolgatheristKoreaOnTheCouch)

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