Many may feel this can be described as “300 on the high seas”, but like its Hollywood counterpart, this is actually based on the true story of the famous Battle of Myeongnyang and how a once-disgraced admiral redeemed himself by sending only twelve ships to take on a massive 330 Japanese fleet ships in 16th century Joseon (later Korea).

Yi Sun-Shin was set up by a Japanese officer during the second Japanese invasion of Joseon in the year 1597. Disgraced and tortured, Yi lost his rank as admiral forever. However, when the Japanese proved to be too much for the Joseon navy, the Emperor was left with no other choice and Yi Sun-Shin was reinstated as he may prove to be the only hope for Joseon.

As part of his reinstatement to become the lead in the Battle of Myeongnyang, Yi has been given only twelve fleet ships as most of the reinforcements and other ships have been thwarted by the Japanese forces in the previous battles. Many Joseon officials begin to doubt that Yi will be capable of handling a small fleet against the massive Japanese navy and convince him to give up. Even his own son thinks Yi will be incapable of doing the impossible. However, Yi decides that he must do what it takes to keep the spirit of Joseon alive.

Meanwhile, the Japanese forces have found a possible ace in the hole in the form of vanguard leader General Kurushima. However, despite his approval by the chancellor to join the forces, many, including Commander Todo and General Wakizaki, feel that Kurushima is too ruthless and even proves it with the help of his assassin cohorts Haru and Lady Jeong. As the battle is set to begin, Yi knows he is outnumbered, but hatches a plan in hopes to ensure Joseon’s victory.

In Korean history, the Battle of Myeongnyang was one of the most legendary battles in naval history. It is the story of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, a disgraced naval commander who was reinstated after a set-up. The admiral then commandeered only 12 ships against nearly thirty times the Japanese fleet ships. This is the first film to highlight this very important battle and its driving force is actor Choi Min-Sik (Oldboy), who delivers one of his greatest performances as Admira Yi.

Choi is terrific as Yi, who may seem stubborn and in one particular scene, a bit ruthless like his Japanese advesary, Kurushima. However, it is clear that it is more about the patriotism for Joseon. For Yi, it is also about redemption for his lost of rank after the set up. On the other side, Ryu Seong-Ryong delivers a ruthless performance as General Kurushima, an arrogant commander who has to have two henchmen to back him up and are a bit on the psychotic side themselves.

While the set up takes about an hour of the film, it is the last hour that truly is worth seeing. This last half consists of the battle itself. One can wonder how such an epic battle could be done. Kim Han-Min combined shooting on the ocean with green screen and consists of excellent visual effects courtesy of Kang Tae-Gyun, special effects by Youn Dae-Won, and some nicely shot battle scenes coordinated by Seoul Action School veteran Hong Eui-Jung. This last hour is truly the piece of the pie for a movie that will be hailed as an eventual epic film.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents is truly a terrific Korean film that depicts a naval battle that defies the odds with a driven performance by Choi Min-Sik.


CJ Entertainment presents a Bigstone Pictures production. Director: Kim Han-Min. Producers: Kim Han-Min, Kim Ju-Kyung, and Chung Byoung-Wook. Writers: Kim Han-Min and Jeon Cheol-Hong. Cinematography: Kim Tae-Sung and Ha Gyeong-Ho. Editing: Kim Chang-Ju.

Cast: Choi Min-Sik, Ryu Seong-Ryong, Cho Jin-Woong, Kim Myung-Gon, Jin Goo, Lee Jun-Hyung, Kwon Yul, No Min-Woo, Ryohei Otani.