An addition to the ever popular, ever enjoyable action verging on martial arts historic fighting genre, War of the Arrows offers an eminently watchable tale that combines exciting battles with a well structured, historically based drama. A combination of the martial art-house film with convincingly paced action, writer/director Kim Han Min has created something that should appeal to a multitude of audiences. A sizable box office hit in its native Korea, and with numerous awards (including four Daejong Awards) already collected within its quiver, does War of the Arrows warrant such praise?
Thirteen years ago Nam Yi’s home was savagely attacked by King Injo’s guards, resulting in the decapitation of his revered father. Prior to this brutal downfall his father had instructed him in the use of the bow, a skill that will prove essential in order to escape the traitorous conflict and to protect his sister Ja-In, with the aid of their father’s long time friend Kim Moo-shin. Nam Yi’s archery skills make him one of the most accomplished warriors within his community. However as the years progress times become even more savage when the Manchurians (notably cruel fashion rich-boy Dorgon, a Prince of the Qing dynasty) invade Korea, executing or enslaving those they come across. Ja-In has grown up and is due to be married to her godfather’s son Kim Seo-gun but she is taken away by the invaders. Nam Yi is determined to find her and bring her back, but the scale of the challenge he faces is vast, verging on insurmountable.
For those seeking to engage with a film about archery War of the Arrow offers plenty of tips – different shaped ones that can have a variety of lethal effects on the enemy. For this is a film where archery is integral not only to the plot but also the action sequences, whether they be minor mêlées, assassinations, target training or major conflict and becomes vital to understanding the characters, their motivation and the dramatic confrontations. While the action sequences, ranging from the epic multi-cast battles to individual altercations, keep the film exciting, it is the characters’ development and their individual conflicts that help War of the Arrows become more fulfilling as drama.
Kim Han min has produced convincing historic centred entertainment. He made his actors train for months on end, learning both horse riding and archery skills before embarking upon what eventually turned out to be a modest shooting schedule. A palpable box office hit War of the Arrows is a well constructed drama with plenty of action and is thoroughly engaging, providing, of course, you are the target audience.