R2B: Return to Base (2012)


r2b poster

Director: Kim Dong-won

Starring: Rain Bi, Shin Se-kyung, Yoo Jun-sang, Lee Ha-na, Kim Sung-soo

113 Minutes

When hotshot fighter pilot Tae-hun (Rain)is transferred out of the elite military stunt team the Black Eagles, he expects his new assignment is just a temporary position until he can get re-instated. As he befriends his new squad mates and the team at the base, he finds himself romantically drawn to beautiful mechanic Se-yeong (Shin Se-kyung) and into conflict with the base’s ace pilot, Cheol-hui (Yu Jun-sang), a straight laced and by the books perfectionist. When a rogue faction within the North Korean military sets about a nuclear attack, it is up to these pilots to save the day and avert the next World War!

If this sounds like a certain Tony Scott film, don’t be surprised, the film clearly uses that 80’s classic as a general template. With principal photography having wrapped over a year ago, the film went through months of post production in order to have it in time for its summer release. Touting a huge budget and the aviation photographic wizardry of Wolfe Air Aviation (Transformers, Iron Man, and Inception) R2B looks to capture aerial action on Korean film like never seen before.

Rain as the lead is fine for this type of popcorn filmmaking. He is brash and confident and charming enough for a likable lead. To be honest, the supporting cast never really does anything much to separate itself from any other populist style film. Everyone just kind of hits the beats and keeps the pace quick and predictable. Typically I’d take points off for a film that does this, but it’s done in a way that was almost comforting in its predictability.

Music is equal parts patriotic for serious moments and lighter for when they are outside of the jets. It does the job well, but nothing to write home about. The real plus about the film is the great production value and visual effects. Planes and aerial dogfights are done considerably well with a sequence over Seoul that reminded my of the dogfight between Isamu and Guld in Macross Plus, you know, minus the planes transforming into robots. To see it on screen was really enjoyable and well worth the wait.

R2B is a well produced and enjoyable enough film, though it fits easily into the fluff category. The characters are generally common tropes that you’ve seen in another popular American fighter pilot film, but they serve their purpose and the film’s goal of getting to some solid aerial action. While ultimately forgettable, R2B is a great example of entertaining cinema with a hint of Korea’s continued approach towards global cinema.

Special Thanks to CJ Entertainment for providing a viewing copy!

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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