‘Brotherhood’ sees director Kang Je-gyu tackle the Korean War head-on with an intense and uncompromising account of the events that divided his nation. It tells the tale of two brothers: Jin Tae, a shoeshine boy who is soon to be married, and Jin Seok, his bookish younger brother who dreams of one day attending university. When the pair are unwillingly conscripted on the eve of the conflict, Jin Tae spends every waking hour striving to secure his brother’s discharge, a campaign that splits their loyalties with dire and appalling consequences.A powerful metaphor for a conflict that destroyed friendships, families and thousands of lives, the story is never less than gripping, and Je-gyu’s visually stunning direction packs a mighty punch. Immediately immersing the viewer in the repugnance of trench life, Je-gyu never once shies away from the harrowing realities of the battlefield, presenting sickening scenes of atrocity with brutal, almost unwatchable, honesty. The only aspect of the film that falls flat is its shameless manipulation of the viewer. An overbearing score and an implausible plot-twist do the film a disservice, while the present-day framing device tugs on the heartstrings a little too hard. However, a little emotional blackmail can be forgiven when confronting subjects and themes this important, and in spite of the odd flaw, it remains even-handed, never once becoming moralistic or judgemental of a war that still, technically, continues today. So while ‘Brotherhood’ may not be the most intelligent war movie ever made, it is without doubt one of the most affecting. This is powerful, passionate filmmaking on a truly epic scale.