This is about what I know about the true story: in 1968, North Korea sent a specially trained unit to kill South Korea’s president, this plan was thwarted. In retaliation, South Korea began training its own elite murder-the-president squad, on an island called Silmido. Three years later, the plan to kill Kim Il-sung abandoned, the members of Unit 684 killed all but a handful of guards keeping them imprisoned on the island, got to the mainland and hijacked a bus, and attempted to lay siege to Seoul. Twenty of them died or committed suicide in the attempt, four were executed soon after.
No shit, that happened. And…that was all of them, all that was left after seven died during training, anyway. Twenty-four men, that’s how many tried to attack the nation’s capital. How has this never been a movie?
It is a movie, it’s just that it’s a Korean movie that’s never gotten a lot of notice in the US since its release eight years ago. In Korea, it’s huge, and its release has led to all sorts of public interest in new airing of previously hidden details of South Korea’s Cold War activities, and the island’s become a tourist attraction.
The movie version adds a Dirty Dozen-esque narrative device, in which Unit 684 is comprised of the worst sort of criminals, rescued from executions by participation and etc. In real life, they were apparently poor petty criminals from small villages – one of the guards who survived the uprising described them as “the kind who would get into street fights a lot.” Exactly how they were tortured and otherwise psychologically forced into becoming human battle mechs is also the film’s invention, because…nobody really knows what was done to them. The records were all destroyed, and the South Korean government never even admitted to any of this happening until a few years before the movie was made.
Anyway, this is one of those movies I’m always trying to get people to watch and it almost never turns up on cable or anything easy like that, and…here it is, streaming on Netflix. Now you got no excuse: see Silmido.