[film review] R2B: Return to Base.

When this came out a few weeks back, I intended to share it but somehow forgot. Sorry about that, folks.

— Stephe ^@@^

Film Journal International 8/23/2012 — By David Noh

Film Review: R2B: Return to Base

Korean air saga joins the terrifically entertaining tradition of classic flight films like Wings, Hell’s Angels and Only Angels Have Wings.

For movie details, please click here.

In an odd coincidence, the Korean air saga R2B: Return to Base, doubtlessly inspired by Top Gun, is being released just a week after the apparent suicide of that film’s director, Tony Scott. Here we have Jung Tae-hun (Korean pop megastar Rain, aka Jung Ji-hoon), in the Tom Cruise reckless-hotshot role, an achingly young fighter pilot who is kicked off an elite show team for his daredevil antics and demoted to a fighter wing. His brash ways raise the hackles of his fellow pilots, who include the far more straitlaced squad leaders Cheol-hui (Yu Jun-sang) and Park Dae-seo (Kim Sung-soo), a widowed single father. Also in their midst are two women, Yu-jin (Lee Ha-na), who harbors a secret crush on Dae-seo, and Se-yeong (Shin Se-kyung), the wing’s talented top maintenance technician, whose faulty hearing is the only thing which keeps her out of the air.

Ever in the doghouse, impulsive Tae-hun has a full plate, as he must win the annual Air Force flying competition (to rejoin the show team) as well as the heart of Se-yeong, who has a true love-hate relationship with this upstart. Additionally, those villainous North Koreans are ever afoot, staging a bloody coup which threatens their neighbors in the south, providing one more do-or-die mission for our young hero.

Under Kim Dong-won’s ebullient direction, Return to Base, for all its genre derivativeness and predictability, is pretty swell entertainment. Kim’s canny delineation of character and alertness to the comradely humor of so many of his situations make this a far more convincing (and far less camp) flight movie than Top Gun. The gruff macho and bluster inherent in Korean men, illustrated by these actors, seems far more organic here than the cock-o’-the-walk strutting of those male ingénues in the Scott film. And there’s none of the weirdly unsettling homoeroticism of glistening, muscled bodies posing in the locker room in barely-there towels, which made Top Gun often so risible. The embattled characters here are not cartoons and you come to genuinely care about them, which gives appreciable depth to all the action pyrotechnics, which are quite spectacular in their myriad, breathlessly shot and edited live action and CGI.

Rain is a deeply ingratiating presence, unafraid to play the fool, with an amusing panoply of funny faces and goofball shtick. Shin is fetchingly feisty and shares a juicy, combative chemistry with him. The other actors fill out their roles nicely, all of them possessing that inordinate handsomeness which has been such an asset and source of appeal of the Korean soap operas which have quite swept the world with their popularity.

~ by Cloud USA on September 6, 2012.

15 Responses to “[film review] R2B: Return to Base.”

  1. Thanks ladies for ur comments. If I ever get the chance to watch the movie I will keep your opinions in mind. I remember top gun and to be honest I watched it to see all these hot guys in the movie 😉.


  2. This movie grows on you the more you see it! I just got back from watching it for the third time. On first viewing the editing seemed choppy to me, jumping from scene to scene without transitions. I thought having three scenes with the two comic characters who aren’t part of the main plot was repetitive. I also thought that spilling the coffee twice was repetitive. Now the third time through I really enjoyed all the comic scenes.
    I agree with the comments here that the American actors are terrible so much so that the people in the audience laugh and the tension of the scene is ruined.
    The role does allow Rain to show some acting range (comedy, anger, sadness, frustration, embarrassment) although the character is not deep. I still think A Love to Kill was Rain’s best role. Bokgu is a character that is conflicted and more complex.
    I love the writer of this article for describing Seyoung


    • (oops) as “fetchingly feisty” and using “combative chemistry” to describe the relationship between Seyoung and Taehun. The guy can write! Also I think the fact that he has a more international/multicultural perspective allows him to appreciate the film more than those who are viewing it through a strictly American filter.
      Stephe, thanks for posting this!


    • This film did seem “choppy” at times…I agree. I also agree that Tae Hun did experience a myriad of emotions, but Because there was no depth to his character and no real back story, these emotions (although experienced) seemed discombobulated (all over the place). At least for me. I kept trying to “feel” something in regard to the actual character and I couldn’t, at least not like I wanted to and I wanted to SO bad. (SMILES) The only time I “felt” true emotion from Tae Hun was when his friend was killed. I have to agree with Terri, for Tae Hun to have been The main character far too little was shown on his “story”….far too little.

      I hate to compare films, but I’m doing so only to make this point and I do get that one is a foreign film and one is domestic. However, in Ninja Assassin, we were taken on journey through the Raizo character’s life/childhood which gave the audience viewer something to connect to. He was a mystery when he first appeared on screen, but it was eventually revealed what made that character “tick”…why he was compelled to do what he did over and over….kick ninja butt. (SMILES) Not so with Tae Hun. Once again, I do reiterate that I TRULY did enjoy this film. I liked that it was foreign. I liked getting a “peek” inside the everyday life of the Korean people….albeit brief though, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I look forward to when this film comes to DVD, because I will be all over it and who knows my opinions may change after I’ve seen it several thousand times…..cause that’s how many times I’ll be watching Bi on film. (SMILES)


  3. The other day, I watched for like twenty minutes Top Gun, just cuz I was longing to see my beloved Rain in R2B and let me tell you I just couldn’t stand it!! It was the part were Maverick meet the woman, who the next day becomes his teacher, in the bar. Oh for me it was awful, soo cheesy and plain stupid! We are talking about some good actors who had to made these boring, totally without originality scenes believable! But that’s the way it is in Hollywood, you take what they dish you and make it the best you can do, I’m sure in Korea is the same but at least I know that Korean movies usually have way better scrips, directors and productions teams than american movies. There’s a reason why people around the world are watching more korean movies, they simply are better! If only Hollywood would take a hint!! 😀


  4. thank stephe sharing us this !!
    i wish i can watch this in USA THEATER ……….. WISH how i can watch it so bad 😦 i just so anxious to see this story of this movies i read couple fan encounter how GOOD this Movies yet funny and yet Rain make u love him even more it suck that many fan allover the WORLD want to watch but it was show 50 STATE banned grrrrrrrrr well i won’t loss my hope on that but i am bit scare it not going to show in US as long so some City are been took down already FINGER CROSS here …………..!!


  5. Thanks for sharing this Stephe. I wish I had the opportunity to see this film again, so that I could digest it more fully. My only personal critique (trying not to be biased cause I love Bi so much) is this. I wish there was just a little bit more back story on some of the characters. For some people that may not have been necessary. I just felt like some scenes needed a little…more. I’m not a film editor so it’s just for me personally.

    Also, can somebody PLEASE tell me why do “American/Western” characters talk like wooden robots in Korean dramas and films. We do….not….space…out…our….words…like….that….when…we….speak. It’s unnatural and annoying. Just let the westerners speak naturally and subtitle the English (spoken words) right along with the Korean, that’s if it’s about other foreigners not being able to understand English. I don’t know maybe it’s just me, but it was like “nails on a chalkboard” annoying. Other than that the film was like I said before AWESOME. (SMILES)


    • BiA,

      I totally agree about the backstory–especially the main character, Tae Hoon. All we learned about him was that he was a crazy hotdog pilot, that he was Lee Hana’s former classmate at the Airforce Academy and that he had a grandmother. That’s it. Doh!

      For the main character. You don’t know how bizarre I thought that was. LOL.

      And yes, the bad “American’ actors really get on my nerves. But I’m thinking that the main problem is that the directors don’t really know how terrible they are, mainly because they don’t speak English themselves. I also think that foreign directors have a tendency to “slow down” their English-speaking actors’ speech too much. Why? Who knows? Maybe because they think that their audiences might understand the English better? They should just stop that and use Korean subtitles.

      Terri :-}


      • Exactly, I wanted to “connect” with the Tae Hoon character a little more. It was like he was this hot-dogging, goofball that just came out of no where. I wanted to know what made him such a hot-dogging flying ace? Is he always a goofball or is it a compensation for deeper emotional issues? Why couldn’t we at least “see” a grandmother? These things (to me) would have humanized the character more. I understand, now more than ever, how the viewer needs to connect to the things that make the characters human. I felt “disconnected” at times during the film. Goodness knows, I want to feel connected to Bi at all times….you know…in a friendship, noona kind of way of course. (SMILES) You believe me right? (SMILES)

        Oh and I totally agree about the subtitling. Just let the American characters speak with a natural flow and subtitle the English words with Korean (or whatever other language). Because to American ears it’s awful. Sorry, but it is…..but I love YOU Bi! (SMILES)


        • BiA,

          “In a noona kind of way.” LOL. SURE.

          I honestly felt the same way about Tae Hoon. I wanted to really connect with him, but never really could, because I didn’t know enough about him. It was very frustrating, because I love Rain’s acting so much. I am seriously wondering what in the heck he thought about that. I mean you’re the lead in a film and you’re trying to develop your character and you read the script and there’s no character development for you whatsoever? What the hell do you do? LOL. That would drive me crazy as an actor. I guess he just had to make up something in his head. LOL.

          I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the film. I certainly did. But there were some definite script problems.

          Terri :-}


          • Oh me either, I totally enjoyed the film. However, it makes you wonder when actors say “I just have to trust the director.” Who knows, maybe when Bi got the script the character’s back story could have been very full, but in the end the director may have gone to “film chop shop school” in the editing room and edited out too much. I swear when I watch deleted scenes on DVDs sometimes I’m like “now why didn’t you keep That scene in?” As an actor, I’m sure it’s frustrating because you’ve trusted your image and character interpretation with that film’s director. It is really out of your hands.


  6. Nice job Steph! Hope I get to see it soon.


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