Northern Limit Line Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Lee Wan, Jin Goo, Lee Hyun Woo
  • Director: Kim Hak-Soon
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: Korean
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Release Date: October 20, 2015
  • Run Time: 130 minutes



            Northern Limit Line is sure to resonate for South Korean patriots and family members of soldiers, though the film loses impact as an import. This is somewhat true because of the specific relevance this event has on Korean history, and expecting the impact to be the same outside of the country would be like Hollywood anticipating a film about 9/11 doing well in European theaters. More importantly, the approach to Northern Limit Line is transparently one-sided, with the North Koreans coming off more like villains from a James Bond film than fully fleshed out characters. This makes for a patriotic piece of South Korean Navy propaganda, though not as convincingly as a piece of art.


            The film is based on the second battle of Yeonpyeong, which took place in the yellow sea during the 2002 World Cup. The calculated surprise attack by Northern Korea on Battleship 357 is never adequately explained. I’m still not entirely clear on the intention of these actions, and Northern Limit Line seems completely uninterested in investigating. This is not a movie that looks for understanding or an accurately balanced representation of events; this is a movie made as monument to the soldiers lost in the unexpected battle. While I respect the instinct to honor their memory cinematically, the true story feels mostly fitting for those with a faithful patriotism to South Korea.


            With most of South Korea distracted by the hosting of the FIFA World Cup, North Korea made the plans to attack, though we never get a clear understanding of their goals or intentions behind the naval assault. We are given slightly more insight into the thought process of the South Korean army, but the most significant human perspective comes from medic Park Dong-hyeok (Lee Hyun Woo). The lengthy film takes its time introducing numerous characters aboard Battleship 357, but this is the one which remains recognizable after the action has begun. All of the rest tend to blend together once the firefight begins, despite the bloated establishing scenes.


            I can certainly understand and appreciate the intentions of a film like Northern Limit Line, though that doesn’t necessarily make it a good film. Even when the well-shot action begins to take place in the final act of the movie, the events don’t have the same impact without an understanding of why the attack occurred in the first place. And no matter how much time is spent establishing the relationships on the ship, there are too many characters in the film for any of the deaths to resonate the way they should. Too much is attempted and the approach is too transparent, making Northern Limit Line a rather forgettable film about an event only the countries involved are likely to take interest in.


            The Blu-ray release doesn’t include any special features. There are a few sequences of battle which utilize the high definition. Some of the digital effects are improved by this, and the sound is often crucial to the presentation of war films, but the surround sound never truly impresses.


    Entertainment Value: 6.5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10

    Historical Significance:  5/10

    Special Features: 0/10

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