Monday, 13 February 2012

R-Point - ghosts in Vietnam

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It's not every day that I pause a rented DVD to rush to my laptop and look up some actual FACTS on the interwebs. But in the case of R-Point I had to be sure that what I was seeing wasn't some weird distortion of history. Because this film is about South Korean soldiers in the Vietnam War. It's become so natural to think of Vietnam was a war waged by Americans that the presence of various allied forces on the southern side rarely comes up. But, as I found out, some 300,000 Korean troops were sent to Vietnam.

This film follows one fictitious unit as they set out to investigate a far-from-routine situation. The trailer above gives away a crucial plot twist, I'm afraid, but it does give you some idea of what happens. Essentially we're in 'lost patrol' country, with the grid reference of the title slap bang in the middle of a sacred (or cursed) site.

The basic premise is familiar enough. In ancient times Chinese invaders massacred the locals and threw their bodies in a lake (long since dried up). It is bad luck, to say the least, for foreign soldiery to intrude but - predictably enough - first the French, the then the Americans, and finally the South Koreans all do the wrong thing. The film is quite well structured but inevitably feels a bit tired and predictable during the early scene-setting bits - we've seen this kind of thing so often. In our gaggle of troops there's a brilliant but troubled officer, a hard-ass sergeant, a misfit, a coward, a quiet one, a joker... You get the picture.

When the unit arrives at R-Point they find the remains of a French colonial mansion (or something like it) and weird stuff happens. I admit that, while I enjoyed some individual scenes, I was never especially taken with the characters and felt the overall plot logic didn't quite hang together. The ending, while powerful in its way, didn't make a lot of sense to me. And, again, the final 'twist' is so predictable that it's more of a minor crinkle.

Overall, then, it's a fairly average war movie enlivened by the presence of ghosts. The ghosts are well handled, though, offering a few decent shocks, and an early combat scene is a fine example of how to do this sort of thing on a tight budget. I'd award R-point three stars out of five - watchable, certainly, but a movie that promises more than it delivers.

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