Silmido (2003)

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Released 15-Feb-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 129:45 (Case: 133)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (43:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Woo-Suk Kang
Cinema Service
Madman Entertainment
Starring Sung-kee Ahn
Kyung-gu Sol
Jun-ho Heo
Jae-yeong Jeong
Seong-jin Kang
Won-hui Lim
Shin-il Kang
Jeong-heon Lee
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.20:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In many ways, South Korea has taken the reins from Hong Kong as the leading filmmaking nation in Asia in the years since the reunification of Hong Kong with China. One of the aspects that is putting South Korean films ahead of the pack, as well as universally high production values, is the diversity of what is being produced. Silmido lives in the action blockbuster end of the spectrum, and a blockbuster it certainly was. Upon release, it quickly became the highest grossing film of all time in South Korean, attracting more than 10 million viewers (around 20% of the country's population). That record has been surpassed only four times since.

    The story of Silmido is loosely based on history, but a very shadowy point of South Korea's history that remains only partially explained to this day. In 1968, in response to a failed attempt by North Korea to assassinate the president, the air force begins top secret training of a group of 31 convicted murderers and thugs - Unit 684. They are being trained for a retaliatory assassination attempt, scheduled to happen as soon as the team are ready. Over the course of two years these men are trained to fight, endure pain and are generally dehumanised. They are effectively kept as prisoners on the island of Silmido throughout this time and unaware of what's going on in the outside world. Over the years Unit 684 have been in training, the political climate between North and South has changed considerably and, as they finally set out on their mission, the order comes through for them to stand down and wait. Wait they do, for another year, before far less honourable orders come through that may lead to a grisly end for Unit 684.

    Silmido caused a bit of an uproar when it was released as the Dirty Dozen aspect of the movie was apparently all made up. The families of the real Unit 684 were quite angry that the film painted the unit to have been made up of society's scum, whereas the families insisted they were elite South Korean special forces troops. Accounts vary considerably, but none have been conclusively proven as records about the men have allegedly been destroyed.

    As far as the film goes, the action side of Silmido is excellent, but the dramatic side quite weak. The film is beautifully shot and directed, but the acting is too over the top. The acting fits in well for the action sequences, but is too wooden to carry the dramatic leg of the film. The action sequences are great to watch, although few are particularly memorable (although the finale certainly is). Silmido is certainly a film worth viewing, but try before you buy.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in a 2.20:1 aspect ratio that is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio for the film is 2.35:1.

    The image is generally quite sharp and quite clear, but some night time scenes are quite grainy (although far from unwatchable). One particular segment of the film that takes place at night, from 95:30 to 107:47, is significantly grainier than the rest of the film. The level of detail in the darker scenes is still good, despite the grain levels.

    The colour of the transfer is a little on the dull side, not enough to really detract form the film but it does prevent the images leaping from the screen as a bolder colour balance would have.

    The are no noticeable film artefacts throughout the film. The compression of the video is generally very good. The only noticeable compression artefact occurs at 110:49 when there is visible macro blocking on the tyres of a bus grinding to a halt.

    The English subtitles are both well translated and easy to read (bright yellow).

    The layer break occurs between scenes at 43:05 and was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    One audio track is present, Korean Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 (224 Kbps) - not Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 as the packaging states.

    The audio is quite clear and levels are well mixed. Dialogue is clear to distinguish and appears well synchronized to the video. The score is quite a fitting over-the-top orchestral piece that suits the movie.

    There is limited use of the surround channels throughout the film, but not as much as would usually be expected from an action film. A disappointingly flat mix for an action movie.

    The subwoofer gets almost no use, even when it is supporting big explosions. As this is a 2.0 soundtrack, there is no dedicated LFE information for the subwoofer so it only picks up the bottom end of the basic soundtrack, but that isn't much even for a 2.0 track.

    Ultimately, the soundtrack is adequate but rather disappointing.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Top marks for the stylish background animation and music in this menu. Though it is little more than assorted footage from the film, it is filtered and presented in a manner that captures the military nature of the film.

Featurette-Making Of (47:14)

    A fairly thorough Korean making of documentary that covers a wide variety of aspects of the film's production. It is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has high contrast yellow English subtitles available (although there are a few typos in them!). The picture quality varies considerably throughout. There are numerous artefacts throughout, particularly in the on-set camcorder footage that makes up much of the featurette which is comparable in terms of quality to home movies.

    This featurette has a lot of interesting material, particularly the aspect on how they essentially tried to make a Hollywood movie with a Korean budget and the globe-hopping this involved, but tends to repeat itself. It does occasionally turn into the kind of self-adulation-fest that many have grown to loathe, but those parts are (thankfully!) brief.

Theatrical Trailer (2:17)

    A fairly generic theatrical trailer.

Gallery: Production Sketches

    A short series of production sketches that focus on set illustrations and costumes.

Gallery: Stills Gallery

    15 generic promotional stills.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Silmido is unavailable in Region 1.

    There is currently a 3 disc NTSC version of Silmido available in Korea Region 3 that has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, is presented in the correct aspect of 2.35:1 and has a slightly larger extras package than the local release (not to mention comes in a fancy Digipak). I have been unable to ascertain whether the extras have subtitles. The extras listed for the Region 3 version are:

    There is a 2 disc Hong Kong Region 3 version available from Universe that has both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1.

    I would favour either Region 3 version for their soundtracks and correct aspect ratios, although the high quality of the subtitles for the Region 4 version is worth considering if you were to decide for yourself.


    A solid Korean action/drama that has "blockbuster" written all over it.

    The video is good, though slightly incorrectly framed.

    The audio is disappointing.

    The extras are quite satisfying.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, October 16, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
HK R3 Making of has English subs -