An Army Of Children, 71: Into The Fire

An Army Of Children, 71: Into The Fire

Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Showbox Media Group

Release date: March 14th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 216 minutes

Country of origin: South Korea
Original language: Korean with English subtitles

Director: John H. Lee

Cast: Choi Seung-hyeon, Kim Seung-woo, Cha Seung-woo

The Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, was the result of the country’s divide after the end of World War II. With the northern half occupied by Communists, the southern half remained American-occupied, the peace between these two opposing sides was never going to hold.

The conflict began when North Korea’s army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded non-Communist South Korea. The United Nations, led by America, gave its support to South Korea and the People’s Republic of China, as well as the Soviet Union, supported the Communist army.

71: Into The Fire

Directed by John H. Lee, 71: Into the Fire is the true story of 71 young student soldiers from South Korea fighting an impossible war against the North Korean army. Freshly recruited, and barely able to hold a rifle or load one, we follow Jang-beom (Choi Seung-hyeon) and his 70 other comrades as they head into battle three weeks after the war started on June 25th, 1950.

Appointed leader by Commander Kang Seok-dae (Kim Seung-woo), Jang-beom is faced with a truly hopeless task without having any experience to draw on or to speak of. With the North Korean army pushing further into President Syngman Rhee’s country the situation worsens as each day passes.

71: Into The Fire

The job of holding them back doesn’t get any easier for these students who are literally thrust into the fire to defend Pohang Girls Middle School, a strategic point, while waiting for reinforcements. These new recruits fight alongside the remaining South Korean army but as the pressure within the group mounts it eventually erupts in a fight where Jang-beom’s authority is left dishevelled and undermined and their much needed supplies are wasted.

These are just boys charged with fighting a man’s war and as they realise how much the odds are stacked against them it can go one of two ways; they either give up or they give it all they’ve got to defend this last line of defence against Park Moo-rang (Cha Seung-woo) and the North Korean Army.

71: Into The Fire

71: Into the Fire is nothing short of a beautifully shot film that demonstrates how war turns boys into men and it does everything it can to highlight acts of bravery in the face of such horrors. At the same time it also does well with its characterisations, showing that when Commander Park offered the boys safety if they surrendered there can be honour even on the opposing side.

Although at times the acting, editing and pacing of the film falters, the focus remains on the group rather trying to develop a storyline for each of its 71 soldiers. They’re united under this one story sharing the same inexperience and fears as they face this terrible fire of war.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.