Illang: The Wolf Brigade is too long, but it is a visionary piece of work presenting characters caught in the middle of Korean unification in a dystopian future.
Based on the Japanese animated film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, the live-action adaptation Illang: The Wolf Brigade, otherwise known as Inrang, is a powerful piece of work by director Jee-woon Kim. If it was not for the long running time of the movie, I would be tempted to say that this is almost a Best Picture-calibre film.
Although this is an adaptation of the original material, the irony runs rife in Illang: The Wolf Brigade. 2018 marks the year where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un crossed the demarcation line to embrace South Korean president Moon Jae-in. This movie is set in 2029 when both countries are attempting plans for a long-term unification, and unfortunately, due to international pressure and risk of war, this has formed anti-unification groups that are categorised as terrorists named “The Sect”. This forces the government’s hands to create a special unit, known as “Illang” (The Wolf Brigade), to stop the force that is attempting to pause the unification process.
Illang: The Wolf Brigade immerses itself in political tension, showing the devastating effects caused by two countries attempting to unify. Illang: The Wolf Brigade creates a phenomenal landscape on which to capture a civil war between the government and the resistors, but also shows how in both factions conflicts are arising. The South Korean dystopian movie strays away from choosing a side in this fictional conflict and rather explains the motives from both perspectives.
Amongst all the devastation and violence, the true story of Illang: The Wolf Brigade is the two characters stuck in the middle of the rising political violence. Im Joong-kyung (Dong-won Gang) is a trained wolf, who becomes disillusioned after witnessing a young girl blowing herself up in the name of anti-unification. Im Joong-kyung is highly trained, but what is daunting is the battle armour the Wolf Brigade have to wear when taking on the terrorists; clamoured in metal, with a highly advanced helmet which hides their eyes behind two red dots.
Lee Yoon-hee (Hyo-Joo Han) is the sister of the suicidal bomber, who manages to form a relationship with the man putting pressure on her to kill herself. Illang: The Wolf Brigade demonstrates two characters at both ends of the spectrum, and both doubting their motives and beliefs. There is an underlying tone of mental resistance, where both characters imagine a different way of living, yet they cannot because of their allegiances.
As Illang: The Wolf Brigade goes through the motions of civil war, the special unit’s internal conflicts and The Sect begin learning about themselves whilst trying to defend their honour. The South Korean film is saddening in a way, because it is not difficult to sense that Im Joon-kyung and Lee Yoon-hee have feelings for each other, but with corruption monitored at both sides, there is a dull reality weighing on them both.
It’s a shame that Illang: The Wolf Brigade is unnecessarily long, because the work is wonderfully shot, and the grainy, dark tone the movie sets itself in is visually impressive – almost like a baby Blade Runner 2049, with imagery that is fascinating to look at but provides a depressing outlook. Illang: The Wolf Brigade, in the end, is a visionary feature and if you have the time to dedicate yourself to a rollercoaster of political violence and inside corruption, then the movie is worth your time.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.