an abortion of a year fuelled by death, near-death, depression, murder and
failed relationships so I am definitely looking forward to 2008 being a
Continuing where we last left off, I watched Kim Ki Duk’s film The Coast
Guard and I can’t say that I got into the groove with this one but it
did have some moments which saved it from being a waste of time.
First of all the concept for the film is strong, it focuses on a group
of South Korean soldiers guarding a section of the coast against the
North. The protagonist/antagonist of the film is a young soldier who is
eager for conflict and wants desperately to shoot a spy in order to win
glory and adulation.
The complication comes when he shoots a local youth, traumatising his
girlfriend (they were using the restricted zone as a makeout spot). He
is acquitted of any wrongdoing and treated as a hero but the impact of
what he has done starts to fracture his mind and leads him to ever
increasingly psychotic behaviour.
The problem with the Coast Guard is that what is quite a serious subject
comes off unintentionally funny, usually due to bad acting by the lead
of the film. There is also somewhat of an issue with the last part of
the film as it is hard to believe that an over eager, yet bumbling young
man becomes a highly trained weapon of destruction just because he
starts losing it. It just isn’t possible to suspend ones disbelief to
the detriment of the film.
On a positive note the mundane nature of life on the base is portrayed
well. The soldiers are bored and guarding against a threat that is
although real, somewhat imagined as both North and South Korea have been
sitting in a constant state of “alert but not alarmed” for years. Very
little in the way of actual conflict ever takes place and this is
reflected well in the film. The soldiers are bored and most of the
intruders in the no go zone are bored youths and tourists too young to
have been alive when the Korean War took place.
While the Coast Guard is ultimately a disappointing effort from Kim at
its core it makes a comment about the nature of the changing perception
of the Korean situation within the South and the potential negative
impacts of getting a group of excitable, testosterone driven young men
to guard against a threat that is largely benign. The onset of boredom
and the inflated sense of heroics that is thrust upon them can
inevitably only end up in tragedy.