You sunk my battleship.
In 2002, there was a skirmish on the Yellow Sea that almost turned into something a lot more consequential. While the FIFA World Cup was going down in South Korea, some serious maritime nastiness revealed itself on contested waters.
Northern Limit Line tells the story of the deadly encounter (from the South Korean side, though there is some North Korea representation in the drama). And running at a robust two hours and ten minutes, the film is conceivably teed up to lay the naval warfare action scenes on thick and fiery, yes?
Alas — no.
I was genuinely surprised at how slow this thing moved, trudging along with the lumbering speed of the battleship itself plowing through the waters. A bummer, as a) I’m always up to an entertaining seafaring action movie and b) recent history that I have no clue about is always welcome into my brain-pain.
I’ll step back a bit and say that the film does get the geopolitical intrigue right. Northern Limit Line is a South Korean-centric film and much of the nail-biting happens in the SK decision-making venues, but the filmmakers staging multiple scenes at the North Korean end adds depth to the film. We see both powers jockeying for supremacy and the border being as disputed as it is (thanks to a nice little run-through of the history between the North and the South) keeps the true lines of demarcation ever-shifting. There is plenty of consternation to soak up as the leaders make their calls (both aggressive and defensive) with the threat of war solidly in the back of everyone’s minds.
Similarly, there’s enough solid character stuff to make the inevitable deaths hold some emotional sway. In fact, the majority of the runtime is devoted to these moments, with the usual “this crew is like family,” so when you start seeing severed limbs litter the decks you’ll feel twice as bad.
Still, give me the naval mayhem. For a bit it seemed promising, with sweeping battleship shots and not-intrusive CGI and a pounding orchestral score, but for the long haul all you’re going to get is some exchanged shells and cannon-fire and lots of bleeding. Even the finale, which I had banked on bringing the action home, is over before you know it. Granted, if full-scale bad-ass war didn’t break out in real life I don’t expect anyone to make anything up — just know going in, if you seek water battlin’, you will largely be left hung out to dry.
Technically solid Blu-ray from the folks a Well Go USA, kicked off with a clean, sterling 1.78:1, 1080p transfer, joined by a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix (Korean). No extras is a downer, considering the historical inspiration.
Some effective moments get drowned out by slow pacing and a dearth of bombast. Go mop the poop deck.