The Yellow Sea

The Yellow Sea

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Owen Van Spall's film review of The Yellow Sea

The original version of Na Hong-jin's The Yellow Sea released into Korean cinemas was 16 minutes longer than the 140-minute cut that crossed over to these shores (for a detailed account of the differences, see - so it is something of a disappointment that this home release from Bounty Films comes with only the shorter version, without the 'deleted scenes' even as an extra.

There is, however, ample compensation in the one extra of merit here – an aptly epic 77-minute making-of documentary that includes plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with key cast and crew (as well as a very occasional glimpse of missing scenes). DP Lee Sung-je discusses how coming up with cinematographic strategies for "following this one stranger who has hardly any lines of dialogue" was one of the "greatest pleasures" of his career. Ha Jung-woo says that the greatest challenge for him in playing protagonist Gu-nam was not the lack of dialogue, but having to act alone for about two-thirds of his scenes, having little or no interaction with other characters, although he admits that the many days of shooting outside at night, sometimes even in water, in conditions described as "north Scottish winter", was also difficult.

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Fight choreographer/stuntman Yoo Sang-seob suggests that the heightened realism of the film's fight scenes comes precisely from their lack of choreography: "Little was pre-arranged – it's just grappling." Miraculously, only one stuntman was injured in the entire shoot. Yoo's only regret is that so many of the car-crash sequences ended up on the cutting room floor. Although he had flipped a bus over in a previous film ("and that was actually a great experience"), for him the biggest challenge in The Yellow Sea was driving and crashing a massive trailer truck – "being a stuntman, and being in a scene with 13 camera units, and this big truck".

Meanwhile production designer Lee Hwo-kyoung stresses the importance, in the Yanbian-set scenes, of avoiding the cliched exotica of "a Hollywood Asian film", and instead finding real locations so that even Chinese viewers would "believe that it was shot in China." The astonishing results speak for themselves – a blend of dirty realism and downbeat melancholy that speaks for a whole community of the desperate and the dispossessed.

A selection of trailers for the film comprises the only other extras here.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2012
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The Yellow Sea packshot
A man agrees to take on a hit in a bid to pay off his debts.
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Product Code: BF88013

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Making-of documentary, English trailer, Korean trailer, teaser trailer

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