26 Years

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Movie Info

26 years ago, state troops were ordered to open fire on civilians in the city of Gwangju who were demonstrating as apart of a democratic movement. Thousands of civilians were killed. Now, a shooter from the national team, a gang member, a policeman, CEO from a large company and director of a private security outfit get involved in a plan to convict the person responsible for the massacre that occurred during the Gwangju Democratization Movement. Kwak Jin-Bae (Jin Goo) is a gang member who lost his father in the Gwangju Democratization Movement. He wants to get revenge. Shim Mi-Jin (Han Hye-Jin) is a shooter from the national team. She is the shooter for the covert team. Policeman Kwon Jung-Kyuk (Im Seul-Ong) lost his family in the Gwangju Democratization Movement. He is now responsible for the cars that have access to the ex-president's house.

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Critic Reviews for 26 Years

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Audience Reviews for 26 Years

  • Apr 06, 2018
    My island is no stranger to atrocities committed by its government on its citizens. Really, what country is stranger to those things? In our case, and this is a CONSIDERABLY smaller incident than the Gwangju Uprising, doing the math, it amounts to 0.0033% of the total number of deaths in the actual Gwangju Uprising, which, according to the estimates, resulted in the deaths of 606 people, though people argue that the number could be as high as 1000-2000. The incident in question is called the Cerro Maravilla Incident, where rogue members of the Puerto Rican police under orders from our Governor at the time, Carlos Romero Barcelo, murdered two pro-independence activists. Several members of the police were convicted for their role in the incident, not necessarily related to the murders, but the Governor was never linked to the murders themselves. Though everyone knew he had something to do with it. It was as much a secret as Elton John's homosexuality is currently a secret in this day and age. Like I said, it definitely doesn't compare, in the slightest, to the Gwangju Uprising, but it's interesting to think about. Moving on from that, however, this movie is loosely inspired by the events of the Gwangju Uprising, as this movie is based off a webtoon. In this movie, the death toll rises up to 4,122 as a result of the soldiers' actions. And, of course, I'm sure the movie simplifies the events. While what happened is certainly an atrocity, I'm certain that the real Gwangju Incident is as black and white as it was portrayed in this movie. They have to take that approach in order for you to invest in their leads as someone you need to root for. If they take a morally grey approach and they attempt to look at the events with an objective viewpoint, you might lose sight of what the film wishes to accomplish. In this film's events, it sees a group of people, all of whom lost someone during the uprising, attempt to make the president who gave the order to kill the civilians pay for what he did. These include a gangster, a sports shooter, a policeman, a businessman and the head of a security firm. The film sees them come together to plan their course of attack and how to best make the president pay. I think first things first, the flashbacks, which are animated like a comic, are the best part of the entire film. And they're really early on in the film. Not that everything after that is bad, though I'll get to my issues with the narrative later, it's just that these animated flashbacks, showing you the different stories of our lead characters that led them to taking part in the mission to kill the former president 26 years later, are effective in getting across the horrifying nature of what it was that happened during the uprising. Again, I'm sure the events are simplified for the film's purposes, but they help get their point across and helps establish the former president as the main villain. Everything after that is a little bit dull compared to the bleakness of the animated flashbacks. What I mean by that is the fact that a huge chunk of this movie is these characters planning out what they're gonna do, how they're gonna do it and what precisely is the perfect time to do it. They get so bogged down in the planning of it that I just lost interest. There are scenes where I, honestly, wasn't really paying attention. I was looking at the screen and I was reading the subtitles, but I wasn't retaining any information. And I don't know why, but I just wasn't all that interested in finding out how they were gonna do things. Some of the more exciting bits in the movie are where Mi-jin (the shooter) says fuck it, takes matter into her own hands and conspires with the policeman to murder the former president regardless of what the plan may be. And the climactic final act, when they storm the president's residence. Those are the best parts of the film simply because they're more action-driven and not as dialogue-heavy. While I found the characters likable enough and I related to their mission, they want to avenge what this asshole did, but I just felt that the planning took up way too much of the movie for it to be a satisfactory experience. There's these interpersonal struggles between our characters and, again, while not bad, I didn't really get into it that much. Again, not that it's bad, but it just didn't hold my attention. The movie, naturally, is well-acted and my problems are certainly not directed at the cast. It's more the scripting focusing on aspects of the movie that I didn't care about. The best parts of the film, non-flashback scenes, are simply everything with the former president. To me, he's such a cartoonish-villain that he simply feels out of place in this type of setting. I don't mean that he's over-the-top in an 80s action-movie fashion. I just mean that this man is literally treated, by those around him, like he's god almighty. There's literally a scene, at a dinner or something, where the attendants bow to him and wish him longevity. He seems to have every security guard in South Korea, and the cops, working for him at his whim. He ran out of toilet paper, the cops will stop whatever it is they are doing and get him some. Some jumped over the security barriers set up around his residence, get ONE-THOUSAND more guards on top of the TEN THOUSAND he already has. It's absurd. Jang Gwang, who plays the former president, is a talented veteran actor and he plays the role suitably, without any remorse and even willful ignorance of the pain his actions caused, but the scripting around him is so silly that it just made him into this deity, whose every move is worshiped by his followers. The third act is well-done, in that there's an out-of-control vibe with several characters' stories converging in, or around, the same place. There's some obvious deaths of some of our lead characters. To the movie's credit, they don't use it for melodrama. I mean there IS some, but it's not as much as you would expect. Though, in this case, I suppose it would be justified, given everything these characters have gone through in the 26 years since the massacre itself. Having said all of that and knowing that the film is loosely based off a webcomic, I found the ending to be absolutely anti-climactic and completely unsatisfactory. The shooter is on top of this crane, 800 meters away from the president's residence. The gangster has the former president in a soft chokehold, holding him in front of the open window, where the shooter is supposed to shoot. The shooter struggles to pull the trigger, considering that she might hurt the gangster, whom she grew to be friends with, I guess. As she struggles another cop finds an elevated platform, where he got it from I don't even know, and he elevates himself, with a gun, to the shooter's level. As he finally meets her, the screen fades to black you hear a gunshot and the movie ends. But there's 15 minutes left in the movie and you're like 'that's it?'. But it isn't it, after a few credits, you see Jung-hyuk (the policeman) watching the former president's security detail, consisting of three cars, driving past him. You never see the president himself, all you have to go by is Jung-hyuk's expression. And his expression implies, quite heavily, that the former president is still alive and then the movie ends. First of all, even with the mid-credits scene, it is still very anti-climactic. And I know they're basing this off real-life and an actual president in South Korea's past. So they probably would not have been able to straight up kill him without ruffling some political feathers. But, realistically speaking, this movie already probably ruffled some political feathers, what more damage could they do? This isn't an actual historical drama, it's inspired by a real-event, but the incidences are completely made up. You COULD have, theoretically, killed the former president and just say that it's an alternate history movie. Like Inglorious Basterds killed Hitler in one of the most satisfying murders in film history. I'm not saying that this would have been a classic death, but it would have provided some sort of satisfaction the people who still live with this massacre every day since it happened. Whether they lost their parents, sons, husbands, wives, daughters, uncles, brothers, sisters, etc, etc, etc, this movie should have been for THOSE people. To give those people a sense of satisfaction and closure to that chapter of their lives that they were not afforded in real life when Chun Doo-hwan, the real former president, was pardoned. Maybe I'm putting too much weight into the effects this movie could have for those who lived through that dark moment in South Korean history, but this shouldn't have ever considered the feelings of the politicians involved in this massacre. In many ways, the movie itself also pardoned the former president for his actions. And for a story that's meant to give a voice to the voiceless, these characters represent those who were ignored by the government, that type of vague, but not really, ending is the worst ending you can possibly choose to employ. With that said, this was a perfectly decent movie, but it falls short of being good. Its pacing, heavy focus on the planning and poor ending do a number on this and hold it back. And that's not even going into the unsatisfying ending, which is insulting to the victims of the massacre. I mean you can certainly do worse, but given the creative freedoms the webcomic took with a real life event, it's disappointing to see the movie feeling tame in comparison. This is perfectly watchable. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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