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The Front Line Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), Korean Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: NR
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run Time: 133 Mins.
  • Studio: Well Go USA
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 8, 2012
  • List Price: $29.98

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Purchase The Front Line on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

When it comes to war films, there is a vast well to draw from that have been made from the Western perspective. Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, or even the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers come to mind immediately. When Clint Eastwood dared step out of the box to tell the Japanese perspective in his Letters from Iwo Jima he risked and did in fact receive a lot of negative publicity.

Perhaps director Hun Jang’s The Front Line (Gojijeon, 고지전) doesn’t quite fall into the category of Iwo Jima, being that it is Korean-made and it is from the perspective of our allies in the Korean War. It is still refreshing, however, to see a film about this often overlooked war that is made from the perspective of our South Korean allies.

It is two-years into the Korean war and Eun-pyo (Ha-kyun Shin) is sent to the Eastern front to uncover a possible Northern mole in the ranks. It’s the crucial territory of Aerok Hills that has been constantly changing hands, and now each side is desperate to hold onto this strategic stronghold before an imminent armistice is signed. Upon his arrival, Eun-pyo finds his friend Soo-Hyeok (Soo Go), the once timid soldier he thought dead who has now quickly risen through the ranks to lieutenant commanding the Aerok forces. The question lies in how Soo-Hyeok has risen so quickly through the ranks. A Southern commander was found killed with a Southern bullet in him and someone among their ranks in under suspicion.

The Front Line is a strong character drama of camaraderie, moral ambiguity and action. Like the best war dramas, it captures the essence of a group of soldiers coming together under the worst of times to do unseemly things as one makeshift family. The camera work and in-camera effects are of a high quality and the acting top notch.

(Editor’s Note: The above review on the film was originally published as our The Front Line [UK Release] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures are taken from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The Front Line was originally captured on the Red One in high definition at 4.5K resolution. Previously released to Blu-ray in the UK by Cine-Asia, which I had the opportunity to review here, that release looked rather strong. This release from Well Go USA is also quite detailed and clean although, like the Cine-Asia release, not quite as film-like as some other Red One productions I’ve seen. Colors in this US release, however, seem to be a bit paler in comparison to the UK counterpart from Cine-Asia. The end result is that overall contrast seems a bit weaker, with blacks not looking nearly as deep and the overall gamma seeming a bit higher. While the Well Go USA release would look just fine to most viewers, in a side-by-side comparison, the UK release from Cine-Asia squeaks by as the superior edition.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

I couldn’t find any really noticeable differences in the audio track on this Well Go Release, provided in the same Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) format as the UK Cine-Asia release. This leads me to believe it is probably a direct digital transfer of the same mastering. The soundtrack is a solid and aggressive mix during the battle sequences in which bullets are flying all around and explosions are rather hefty. The low frequencies could have been stronger, but at least dialogue is clean and high frequencies are natural, never becoming fatiguing.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

Only the brief making-of and original trailer are retained from the previous UK release by Cine-Asia. Absent is the well done audio commentary by Bey Logan and additional behind-the-scenes featurettes that offered lots of production footage. This release does offer a “highlight” featurette, however, which isn’t particularly informative or worth sitting through.

The supplements:

  • Original Trailer (1.33:1; SD)
  • US Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
  • Making Of (1.33:1; SD; 00:03:42)
  • Highlights (1.33:1; SD; 00:21:45)
  • DVD — Standard definition DVD release of the film is included.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Watching The Front Line a second time through, my opinion hasn’t wavered from when I first viewed it to review the Cine-Asia release. I was quite taken with this Korean War drama by director Hun Jang that first time through, and the second time around, it seemed even better than the first. The Front Line is truly a masterpiece to say the least. It is touching and heartbreaking, pulse-pounding and riveting; a different perspective from what we’re used to in the West. If you’re into war films, then you need to add this one to your collection. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B0076XTFF0[/amazon-product]

Purchase The Front Line on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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