Brotherhood is an epic Korean war movie in the same mould as Saving Private Ryan. Like Spielberg’s film it features some shockingly brutal battle scenes but it also suffers from Ryan‘s biggest failing – an overly sentimental story.
The tale of two brothers who are pressed into the service of the South when it goes to war with North Korea is overly melodramatic. Before the war they’re living a poor but idilic life, one of the brothers is getting an education while the elder helps pay for said education by doing shoe repairs. War shatters their plans but the elder brother makes a deal with his commanding officer – if he gets a medal his younger brother will be allowed to return home. Thus big brother becomes a super soldier, singlehandedly wiping out half the North Korean army. What makes this cloying sentimentality bearable is the realistic battle scenes, there’s a randomness to the battlefield that really puts you in the thick of things.
Sadly the story takes a contrived twist towards the end that sees the two brothers fighting on opposite sides. It’s at this point the film lost me and any interest I had in the resolution of the siblings story evaporated.
Brotherhood is half a great war movie but it falls down with it’s central characters and thus the viewers emotional involvement. It also makes no effort to explore the politics of the conflict – Communists are bad is about as deep as it gets, although in fairness it does show that atrocities were perpetrated on both sides.
Just a final note on the Saving Private Ryan parallels, both films feature scenes set in modern times with Brotherhood bookended with the surviving brother being contacted by the army when they uncover the remains of those who died during the films climactic battle scene. This adds nothing to the film though other than an extra dose of sentimentality.