The Admiral: Roaring Currents Blu-ray Review

A Korean war epic that shattered all their box office records has amazing naval battles

The Admiral: Roaring Currents is an epic Korean film commemorating a very important naval battle from Korean history. The movie features some of the most impressive naval warfare ever seen in cinema. It is the year 1597 and a disgraced admiral commanding 12 ships is the only thing preventing the Japanese from finally overtaking the Joseon Dynasty. Outstanding production values and an eye for authentic detail make it a crowd-pleasing historical war epic. The biggest moneymaker in Korean film history should entertain Western audiences as well with its convincing action and lavish history lesson.

The film revolves the Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597. This was in the middle of a Japanese invasion of Korea. The Joseon Dynasty was down to a measly 12 ships, led by a disgraced admiral by the name of Yi Sun-shin (Choi Min-sik from films such as Lucy and Old Boy). They were facing the fall of their dynasty from over 300 Japanese ships headed to crush any remaining resistance. That conflict forms the entirety of The Admiral: Roaring Currents.

This is a film about war. Little attention is paid to developing these characters beyond their roles in this conflict. Some minor nods are paid to characterization but I suspect that Korean audiences are already familiar with these figures. Admiral Yi Sun-shin is dying as he leads his ships into battle, developing a successful strategy to defeat the superior-in-size Japanese fleet. It is a feel-good triumph intended for Korean audiences.

A mega-production by Korean standards, it rocks and rolls with a rare energy for a historical epic.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents has some of the most impressive naval action I’ve ever seen with production values worthy of Hollywood. It is evident that a great deal of attention was paid to historical accuracy in the costumes and production design. A mega-production by Korean standards, it rocks and rolls with a rare energy for a historical epic. The closest comparison would be John Woo’s Red Cliff, the 2008 Chinese historical war epic.

Western audiences will easily follow the massive naval battle that takes up the second half of the film. It speaks in the language of Hollywood war films, cleverly using a couple of unpredictable twists to keep the audience engaged until the end. The first half sets the historical background for the battle, moving at a slower and more dramatic pace. No movie would be complete without a villain. The Admiral: Roaring Currents has Kurushima the Pirate King. A rogue employed by the Japanese, he has been sent in to finally crush the Joseon Dynasty. Kurushima also has a personal grudge to settle with admiral Yi Sun-shin. Kurushima certainly looks like an intimidating villain, even if his ships end up smashed to pieces in battle.

For someone that was oblivious to Korean history before seeing The Admiral: Roaring Currents, it is a great deal of fun. The naval action is epic in scope and delivers an entertaining, if one-sided, view of this important battle from Korean history.

Movie ★★★★☆

The Admiral Blu-ray screen shot 7

This is the type of film that Blu-ray’s A/V quality was intended. The Admiral: Roaring Currents was lensed by the same cinematographer behind War of the Arrows. Filmed on the Red Epic in pristine clarity, this is one of the sharpest action epics seen on Blu-ray in some time. The 1080P video delivers outstanding contrast, incredible detail, and fantastic depth. This is demo material meant to be seen on a calibrated display or the big screen. Its black levels are inky perfection, loaded with gorgeous shadow delineation.

The main feature clocks in at 128 minutes. It is encoded in AVC at an average video bitrate of 23.94 Mbps. This is a perfectly transparent video encode that cleanly replicates everything without artifacts getting in the way. The 1080P video is presented in the film’s intended aspect ratio, 2.40:1.

I love picking apart a Blu-ray’s presentation as much as the next reviewer but this is absolutely flawless 1080P video quality. You can’t ask for much more than this technically perfect digital film transfer made with the latest camera technology. Its picture quality ranks just below the best live-action films released on Blu-ray.

Video ★★★★★

Matching its stellar picture quality is an incredible 5.1 DTS-HD MA Korean soundtrack that is summed up by complete immersion. The intricate audio design plunges you into the action in this sweeping surround presentation. A heroic symphonic score fills the soundstage with emotion, beautifully supported by thundering bass and LFE. The active soundtrack matches anything coming out of Hollywood in terms of fidelity and sonic impact. English subtitles are provided in a white font that remain inside the widescreen feature at all times.

An English dub in 5.1 DTS-HD MA has been included for those that can’t stand reading subtitles or don’t speak Korean. Stereo versions of the Korean and English soundtracks have been provided in 2.0 PCM.

Audio ★★★★★

CJ Entertainment includes one of the tightest-fitting slipcovers ever seen in this Blu-ray edition. There isn’t much to this batch of supplements but the trailers are somewhat fun.

Making Of The Admiral: Roaring Currents (04:58 in SD) – A featurette in Korean with English subtitles. This one visits the set and building the ships used in the film. Cast members and the director discuss their feelings on the film in brief clips. A behind-the-scenes look that isn’t overly detailed.

Highlights (30:09 in SD) – One of the more bizarre special features seen. This is nothing more than a bunch of the more important moments strung together from the film in letterboxed widescreen. What is the point?

The Admiral Teaser (00:53 in HD)

The Admiral Theatrical Trailer (01:23 in HD)

Trailers (various times in HD) – Flu, Friend II: The Legacy, No Tears for the Dead, The Divine Move, The Tower, I Am

Extras ★☆☆☆☆

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.