The first North Korean film I have ever watched, turned out to be a surprise, for a number of reasons. Let us take things from the beginning, though.
Elite team against all odds
The film tells the story of a an elite team of North Korean soldiers, whose mission is to infiltrate and destroy the enemy’s general staff headquarters. Before they do that however, they have to meet a secret agent with the code name “Balaustine,” who will give them crucial information about their mission. Unfortunately, as they travel in disguise on a train towards the enemy territory, a major of the enemy’s army starts suspecting them, and in essence prevents them from meeting Balaustine.
All aspects servicing the action
Jung Ki-mo and Kim Eung-suk direct a film that, mostly, highlights the action. In that fashion, the story, and the acting are placed in the background, a trait exemplified by the fact that many of the actors are martial arts practitioners, and they hardly speak. However, Park Yeon-Bock’s cinematography takes a step further, presenting a number of beautiful shots, with the one in the dusk and another in the sunset standing apart. The fact that the film features many different locations, is another proof of the work done in the cinematography department.
Impressive action in cult fashion
The film was shot in 1986 and seems like a low-budget one, but its staff managed to present a number of well-choreographed action scenes. Since they were not able to implement wire-work or special effects, they used fast forward motion and a number of extremely edited scenes, in order to make these scenes more impressive. Add to that the fact that most of the actors are actual martial arts practitioners, and you have a number of sequences that look preposterous and extraordinary at the same time. The ones where a small building collapses and a number involving knives are the most distinct examples.
These two traits (all aspects servicing the action and Impressive action in cult fashion) are the ones that make the film look like a Shaw Brothers’ production, despite the difference in setting.
The inevitable propaganda
I guess, if one were to shoot a film in North Korea in the 80’s, he would be obliged to include some scenes where the President, the Party and the army are praised, and that is also the case with “Order No. 27.” Furthermore, the movie exemplifies the bonds among soldiers, with the higher ups in the army treating their subordinates as if they were their children, and vice versa. These scenes, along with the epic music playing in the background, give a melodramatic tone to the production. In a way, though, they make the film even more cult.
Many will consider “Order No. 27” as a “trash film” due to its low-budget, nonsensical editing and lack of competent direction and script. However, Shaw Brothers fans will definitely find another cult gem here.
“Order No. 27” will screen on Five Flavours Film Festival that will be held in Warsaw (November 16 – 23) and Wroclaw (November 18-24).