Have you ever… seen The Admiral: Roaring Currents?

Have you ever? is a short look back at anything you might have missed from all over the pop culture world.

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You probably haven’t seen this. If you have, wow I’m impressed. Talk to me on Facebook, we need to talk about this. Who’d have thought, when I started this, that I’d write about 3 Korean films in the first 7 posts?! There’s only one left after this that needs mentioning so I’ll have to start thinking of more films to talk about soon.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents is apparently a very popular film, in Korea at least. To date it is the most-watched and highest-grossing film of all time over there so it’s a travesty that it barely manages to get a look in over here.

I can’t resist talking about as much of it as I can so if you have Amazon Prime, go and watch it now. I’ll wait.

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Good, you’re back. Oh my god what a film, am I right? It seems a shame that I went into the film not knowing the tale of admiral Yi Sun-Shin; a man who, according to a lot of experts (I realise how vague and unreliable that is), rivals Admiral Nelson for most successful naval commanders of all time. Without the film, his story is still incredible. Never defeated in battle (spoiler warning for the film – sorry!), Admiral Yi almost single-handedly held off the vastly larger Japanese navy during various attempted invasions. It says a lot about just how important he is that in Seoul, underneath the central plaza leading up to the historic palace, there is an enormous museum dedicated to King Sejong, a man, without whom Korea as we know it would not exist, and Yi Sun-Shin.

This film takes place during one of these invasions, focusing on the now legendary Battle of Myeongnyang, in which the Korean navy, reduced to 13 ships due to some back story that you can see in the film, stands up to the full might of the 330 ship strong Japanese navy.

Similar to the way my outgoing texts changed during Ip Man, I remember I was talking to my sister while watching this film. The start is slow but it is clear it is building up to something big. Upon the outset of the battle, I had to tell my sister “I’ll need to speak to you later, this is getting good”. Even if I had wanted to text again after that, the action is so unrelenting and the twists and turns of the story so heart-rending that I don’t think I could tear my eyes away on my first viewing.  As we agreed earlier, you have now seen this film so you’ll know about all these bits I’m about to speak about (right?).

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I don’t know if it’s just me, but I am often moved to tears my epic films. The ride of the Rohirrim in the Lord of the Rings never fails to make my eyes water and this film is no different. Admiral Yi spends the first part of the film very quiet. Whether he is afraid of what to come or is planning his tactics, it is a very welcome sight where he appears to wake up and put his plans into action. The ships form up in a narrow strait, hoping to use the strong (almost roaring, you could say) currents to their advantage but upon forming up the other, smaller ships find themselves drifting downstream. The flagship stands firm and prepares to face the Japanese fleet alone.

To name a few of the best parts: the scene where the flagship is completely surrounded on three sides and has been boarded; the fire ship, weighed down with gunpowder, slowly progressing towards the flagship and the Japanese sniper’s shots getting closer and closer to Yi. Every one built up the emotion until I was a near wreck at the end. My favourite shot in the whole film comes when the flagship has been boarded and everyone is mid-melee combat. There is a slow motion pan around the entire ship with everyone fighting simultaneously and it is just awesome.

If any of you reading have got this far and not closed your computer down and gone to watch the film, what more do I need to say?


If you’ve already seen this film, why not check out some other epic Asian war films:

13 Assassins (way better than the name suggests – worthy of its own post)

House of Flying Daggers

The Last Samurai (I’m aware this is not Asian but it’s so good I’ll allow it)

71: Into the Fire