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Title: Northern Limit Line

Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :halfstar:

HTS Overall Score:74

“Northern Limit Line” is actually based upon the real life events of 2002, when a North Korean naval vessel crossed the borders between North and South Korea, inciting a wartime incident that would claim lives on both sides. I enjoy wartime dramas, especially naval battles, and was eagerly anticipating the film, only to feel a bit let down by the obvious jingoism and national pride that somehow circumvented the need for plot and direct storytelling. “Northern Limit Line” isn’t a bad film, and is reasonably competent at telling the story, but I felt more like a third party viewer watching a memorial parade than an actual film.

Based upon the battle of Yeonpyeong, the film centers around a North Korean ship attacked the South Korean Naval vessel 357 on the day of the world cup where South Korea faces off against Turkey. A young medical officer comes on board the fated South Korean vessel, only to find out that he’s in over his head a bit. Their overly strict captain is brusque and unrelenting, showing no mercy to the men who just want to watch the game on the TV. His pessimism proves to be warranted when a North Korean ship passes through the northern maritime barrier and opens fire on the crew, who now are forced to fight for their very lives.

For being a 2 hour and 10 minute film, there is surprisingly little narrative, and the action doesn’t even come till the halfway point in the film. The first hour really seems like backstory, as we see the men interact with each other and josh the others while putzing around the ship. There’s some relational drama with the captain, who doesn’t seem to understand that the men are just blowing off steam, but past that it just seems to be us viewing the lives of the men for an hour. Then, when the action starts, it REALLY starts. Guns, explosion, and blood galore, this is not your typical glorified battle. It’s simply terrifying and saddening to watch men on both sides of the conflict get torn apart for no reason.


Then, as fast as it starts, the action is over, leaving us with another 30 minutes of wrap up. Intersplicing real footage of the memorial and funerals that happened after the fateful 2002 attack, the film tries to emotionally connect us with the fallen comrades, much like the Vietnam movies of the 80s did for the American populace. As much as I wanted to feel an emotional connection, I just couldn’t. the fiction never allowed us to emotionally connect with the victims in the slightest, but for someone of South Korean heritage who was there, I am sure it made a much more emotional appeal. Being that the first hour and a half never really endeared us to the fallen soldiers, the memorial like finale just couldn’t pull the heart strings enough for me to become emotionally involved.

Acting wise it’s a mixed bag. I honestly can’t tell if the actors were that good or that bad due to the fact that the writing didn’t give them much to work with. The script really seemed to just spell things out rather than try to create a fictional narrative that lends itself towards three dimensional characters. For what it’s worth, it makes a passable naval thriller when the action gets going, but the before and after is a tad dry for the subject matter at hand. The camera work is excellent, and the naval battle was phenomenal, but without anything anchoring the plot, said action just felt a bit hollow.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
“Northern Limit Line” is obviously shot on digital cameras, and the results are spectacular, with razor sharp detail and beautiful colors. The downside is that the image looks a little TOO glossy at sometimes, belying the fact that it is a digital source. Colors are well saturated, and the spectrum leans towards the blue and grey end (as seems to be the case with a lot of Asian films I’ve noticed). Fine detail is magnificent, as you can see every last fiber on the military uniforms, and every drop of water on the bow of the deck. Black levels are deep and inky, with wonderful shadow detail, and the only real issue I saw was some very minor banding during the underwater rescue sequence of the ship’s pilot. Bitrate is high and obviously has enough room to breathe, which leaves us with a very pretty looking picture.

Audio :4.5stars:
The Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than capable with keeping up, and is one of the best parts of the whole film. Integrating fantastic 360 degree ambient sounds with crystal clear dialog, it manages to give a fantastic surround experience. The first ½ of the film is a bit dialog heavy, but there is more than enough background noises to keep the subs and surround channels happy, but when the action starts up, the entire soundstage is rocking from top to bottom. Heavy weaponry ripples with LFE and the surrounds are filled with the screams of the men, the whistling of shells across the water, and the sounds of the ocean waves pounding against the boats. Well done and heavily immersive, “Northern Limit Line’s” 5.1 experience isn’t too over the top, but balances the calmer parts of the movie with the heavily explosive action sequences quite handily.

Extras :halfstar:

• Theatrical Trailer
• Previews

Overall: :3.5stars:

I really wanted to like “Northern Limit Line”, but the movie is less of a movie, and more of a retelling of a historical event on screen. Characterization is very minimal, and the action scenes lack any real impact to the character. I wasn’t insulted by what I saw, or really having a bad time watching the movie. I just couldn’t become emotionally invested enough to really have feelings one way or the other. The video and audio specs for the film were naturally excellent, but the lack of any extras pertaining to the event at all felt like a missed opportunity. It’s worth a rental if you’re interested in the subject material at the least.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jin Goo, Lee Hyun Woo, Mu-Yeol Kim
Directed by: Kim Hak-Soon
Written by: Choi Soon-jo
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 130 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 20th 2015

Buy Northern Limit Line Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Maybe a Rental

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