Park Hoon-jung (director)
06 November 2017 (released)
29 November 2017
This is a powerful, beautiful and thought-provoking movie which, despite its plentiful action, is also deeply moving.
Choi Min-Sik (OLDBOY) plays Man-duk, a former hunter who lives deep in the Korean woods where he mainly hunted for mountain tigers until one day his wife was fatally injured by one of the animals. The event turned the now aging man into a retired loner who, together with his son Seok, leads a poverty-stricken existence in his hut and gets by from collecting herbs. The plot takes place around 1925, a time when Korea was occupied by the Japanese and hungry locals were forced to chase and kill Korean tigers almost to extinction for lousy pay (as the Japanese valued these magnificent animals as trophies and the skins used). One Japanese general is utterly fanatical about getting a particularly magnificent specimen, a 400kg male tiger named Mountain Lord, and orders Gu-Kyung – the leader of a gang of Korean renegate hunters – to bring him the that very tiger. But the animal is always one step ahead and mercilessly preys upon its hunters.
Meanwhile Seok, who plans to move to the city to marry his secret love for which he needs money, joins the hunters without the knowledge of his father so he can finally be recognized as a man. However, he is fatally injured when the hunted animal attacks. After wolves drag the wounded boy away from the scene of the latest massacre and Man-duk looks in vain for his son, the tiger – several days later - drags Seok's mutilated body before the hut of Man-duk who now recognizes the same tiger in the proud animal whose family he ruthlessly shot down years ago while out hunting... except for two small tiger babies which he spared. One of those babies is now the adult tiger Mountain Lord and it is he who stands in front of him because he recognizes in Man-duk the hunter who spared his life years ago. Man-duk is aware that he has lost everything in life that once was dear to him. Likewise, Mountain Lord feels that his time has come because he has been wounded by a rifle bullett and can not escape his hunters forever ... In a unique understanding between man and beast, Man-duk and Mountain King soon will be united forever...
Choi Min-Sik excels in his portrayal of the old hunter whose life is besieged by his personal demons… a man who has to admit that he alone and not the tiger is to blame for the deaths both of his wife as well as his son. The cinematography is excellent, especially the close-up shots of the tigers. The CGI effects of the attacking animals slaying flocks of hunters within minutes are not always 100% convincing and the scenes in which the gigantic tiger manages to slay entire groups of hunters within minutes seem somewhat far-fetched. The English subtitles seem curiously riddled with American expressions. But apart from these minor criticisms, THE TIGER is one of the most touching action dramas around. At the same time the film calls for reflection because tigers are still hunted and thus threatened with extinction.
The Blu-ray version is gorgeous to look at but offers no Special Features.