The Battle of Jangsari (available on Jan. 28 from Well Go USA) follows a group of barely trained South Korean student soldiers who staged a diversion during the Korean War to allow their larger forces to reach Incheon. I’m not especially well-read on either Korean War history or South Korean history, but viewing Jangsari made it clear neither was necessary. This is a pretty standard over-choreographed post-Saving Private Ryan patriotic war film with the added bonus of Megan Fox showing up to deliver endless exposition in an offended demeanor.
Why is Megan Fox in Jangsari? Well, she provides the non-battle framing device as a war correspondent trying to gin up international support for the beleaguered troops staging the diversion. I’m generally a fan of Fox, but there are roles she’s suited for and roles she isn’t, and her bits here feel like Warner Brothers Korea went for the most recognizable American face they could find for the lowest price. It worked: This review immediately jumped into critiquing her presence in the movie rather than the substandard war-play that dominates the running time. Jangsari is dedicated to women war correspondents, which chafes a bit; her character’s story feels like a secondary priority compared to the bloody bits, even as it moves the overall plot forward. Good, but unsuccessful, intentions.
The battle sequences are mostly incomprehensible, ranging from poorly shot nighttime beach landings full of CGI to close-quarters combat shot like a Bourne movie. Handheld action choreography is a technique that works best when the combatants are known by an audience; when two armies meet, it becomes a mess of bodies, limbs and blows. Most of the running time is filled with these battle sequences. Perhaps the only interesting bit to write home about is a brief moment of sustained one-shot action that was more impressive than anything in 1917.
Aside from that bit, though, interest dies quickly. The student characters are mostly archetypes you see in other stories of the kind. They die in big melodramatic ways. War, war. Rah, rah. Etc., etc. The visual language of this type of war film hasn’t received a valuable upgrade since 1998. Once gore and extremity were unlocked, it all ended. Not that this has anything on, say, Hacksaw Ridge. Jangsari never leans into bad taste. It’s simply standard, with flaws. Again: I am not South Korean and have no personal attachment to this particular tale as a part of my cultural history, so perhaps it plays differently elsewhere.