Foreign Affair: ‘The Front Line’

One of the most popular Korean films of all time, The Front Line (Well Go) puts a visceral, conflicted spin on the familiar war drama of brother against brother and the sacrifice of soldiers in the last push for territory in the days before the end of hostilities. While the Korean War armistice talks drag on through the second year, a military investigator in the South Korean army heads to the front lines to investigate the death of a commanding officer and finds a meat grinder of a war of attrition as the two sides keep retaking the same worthless patch of mountain on the soon-to-be finalized national border. The only thing that keeps them human is leaving little gifts (and no, I don’t mean booby traps but liquor, food, and sometimes even letters) for their brothers across the demarcation: drink their booze one day, kill or be killed in a firefight with them the next.

That brutal reality of this kind of trench warfare in mid-20th century Korea, and the way they’ve been able to compartmentalize feelings of camaraderie with unwavering commitment to battle, is what makes the film so interesting. The themes and characters are right out of any number of classic war movies, but the grueling battle scenes are quite effective and the frontline culture born of this war, so at odds with military discipline and command, is fascinating.

In Korean with English subtitles. The DVD and Blu-ray+DVD Combo pack both include the featurette “The Making of The Front Line.”

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Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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