Holy smokes, this was a rough watch. It wasn’t rough because it was a bad movie, it was rough because the actors and actresses did such a superb job with their roles, that the emotions got to me. Multiple times.
The Battleship Island is a 2017 movie based off of actual events. It was written by Ryoo Seung-Wan and Shin Kyoung-Il and is directed by Ryoo Seung-Wan. The storyline…well let’s just dive into it.
The Battleship Island takes place in the 1940s when Japan occupied Korea. Lee Kang-Ok, who’s played by Hwang Jung-Min, is a band leader and gets caught making goo goo eyes at the Section Chief’s wife. He and his daughter So-Hee decide to flee to Japan to try for a better life. Once there, they, along with the rest of the people on the ship they were on, get forced to go Battleship Island.
Here’s where the emotional stuff happens and even though I won’t give too many detailed spoilers, I feel like I should mention if you are easily upset by brutality, you may have a problem with this movie.
Once the group gets to Battleship Island, the men and women are separated. The men are beaten to make sure they
comply with their captors’ wishes and the women are looked over as if they are cattle. So-Hee is separated from her father and a woman who had stood up for herself on the ship named Mal-Nyeon gets smacked around. So Ji Sub’s character, Choi Chil-Sung tries to assist her and gets the snot beaten out of him.
Once everyone is on the island, they are given body searches, their belongings stolen and are humiliated in every sense of the word. The women are to become comfort women and the men have to work in the coal mines, hundreds of feet below sea level.
While Lee Kang-Ok, So-Hee, and Choi Chil-Sung tried their best to make a living onboard the island, Park Moo-Young arrives undercover in order to rescue Yoon Hak-Chul, someone who he thinks will be able to help win the war. He enlists the help of Lee Kang-Ok and together creates a plan of escape.
During this time, Hiroshima happens and the island gets bombed. The surviving Japanese officials on the island are desperate to escape and are told to get rid of the Koreans. Moo-Young learns of a terrible secret and decides to do what he can to help all the Koreans off of the island. This leads to an all out war. Not all of the characters we’ve come to love survive and by the end of the movie, I had a pile of used tissues by my side and a runny nose.
At the end of the movie, before the credits, there is a blurb about the real Battleship Island (yes this is an actual place) and how it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the conditions of UNESCO was to post notices about forced labor and other historical facts by December 2017. So far, this hasn’t happened yet.
That fact filled me with such disbelief and almost rage. Why is it so difficult to post about what happened? Are people still in denial about the existence of Battleship Island and comfort women? Being a 7-year veteran, I know how ugly war can be. This whole thing baffles me.
Overall, this is an incredible story that was beautifully told by the cast. If you are near any of the cities that have this playing, I urge you to go and see it. Learn something and let me know what you think of the movie.