In keeping with reading about late 19th century Korean history I watched a movie about Empress Myseongseong called The Sword with No Name. The account is fictional and highly dramatized. I went into the film with no previous knowledge of the director or any of the actors, so I had no idea what to expect.
In a number of places the film fluctuated between scenes intended to build up a realistic atmosphere and CGI sword fights. The quality of the fight scenes demonstrated just how far computer graphics have come, and were breathtaking in their own right. Unfortunately it almost seemed like the director was nervous about filming normally choreographed duels. Immediately at the onset of the first confrontations between the hero and his nemesis, the medium shifted from regular camera work to computer generated effects. The stark contrast may very well have been intentional, but I was left wishing the director had used traditional methods to present some of the action.
The Sword with No Name did manage to create the atmosphere of an epic. The nationalistic treatment of the subject matter was magnified a great deal, but the degree to which it defined the movie is open to personal interpretation. The historical feelings surrounding Empress Myseongseong's assassination imparted a soda-pop patriotism reminiscent of Red Dawn's purpleganda, yet did not ruin the movie. The CGI fight sequences also threatened to impair the flick, but the romanticism of the fictional relationship between the queen and her defender managed to rescue it from the bin of deeper mediocrity.
When it was all said and done The Sword with No Name managed to remain a good way to forget about the real world for a while. The cinematography was very beautiful in a number of places. Su-Ae is a knockout, and Cho Seung-Woo fills the role of her gallant defender very well. Worth watching.