2010 swordplay drama Blades of Blood
marks the most recent outing for South Korean director Lee Joon-ik, who
came to prominence with his 2003 historical comedy Once Upon a Time
in a Battlefield.
Returning to the historical milieu but this
time around largely dispensing with the laughs, Blades of Blood
tells of the threat of Japanese invasion of Korea during the 16th
century, and of the political infighting and increasingly large scale
rebellions that are tearing the nation asunder.
Based on the first-rate graphic novel
Like the Moon Escaping From the Clouds, the story revolves around
Lee Mong-Hak, a swordsman who raises a rebel army with which he intends
to overthrow the present ineffectual government and bolster defences
against the imminent Japanese assault. Opposing Mong-Hak is a legendary
blind swordsman named Hwang, whose own hordes are also handy with a
blade. The two armies must do battle for the crown, and with a title
and a premise like this you can be sure plenty of blood is spilled and
much epic swordplay abounds.
Lee clearly has a great love of history,
and of imbuing his dramas with an unimpeachable air of historical
accuracy. Once again the costuming and settings are faultless, as is
the thoughtful and often quite inventive cinematography. The film is a
fairly long one at just under two hours and its plot occasionally
meanders, but in the end this is a strong and visually arresting
historical drama and one which marks something of a return to form for
the highly talented Lee.
Audio & Video
5.1 and 7.1 DTS audio on options are on
offer, the latter of which will test the mettle of even the most
advanced surround home theatre systems, and although the score is
somewhat sparse and many sequences are dialogue driven when the
soundtrack does kick in there’s an abundance of depth and plenty of
directionality too. The film is presented in 1.85:1, not 16:9, and
picture quality is also supremely good throughout, with masterful
clarity and plenty of rich colourification. No English dub has been
provided, though the subtitles are largely comprehensive and
None, the local HD edition is bare bones –
not so much as a theatrical trailer in sight.