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General Choi (Ju Jin-mo) was entrusted with the task of accompanying a
convoy of Korean envoys safe to the Ming palace and back - but the Ming
have set a trap for the envoys and the whole group is dragged out to the
desert and left to fend for their own, hundreds of miles away from Korea -
and before long, our Koreans run into the Mongolian army led by General
Rambulhua (Yu Rongguang), with whom they almost clash, but ultimately the
Mongolians leave them be upon realizing the Koreans are not associated
with the Mings, their sworn enemy. The only take one prisoner, Yeosol
(Jung Woo-sung), a former slave who has fought against the Mongols
single-handedly and most skillfully.
But the Mongols have also another prisoner, Ming princess Bu-yong
(Zhang Ziyi) - and suddenly General Choi forgets all his plans to bring
his Koreans home safely and instead comes up with the idea to free the
Princess to reconcile with the Mings.
Freeing the Princess isn't too difficult, especially after they free
Yeosol as well, who can fight like 10 men, but then they have to make it
to Ming palace, and like in a game of chess General Rambulhua anticipates
each and every of our Koreans' moves, and at one point burns down a
village and all of its boats so they cannot get provisions or cross a
river - and as a result, the villagers who escaped the ordeal team up with
the Koreans, which slows down their caravan.
More and more the situation escalates to Choi and Yeosol - each in his
own way - vying for the Princess' attentions, and before long, the caravan
doesn't trust Choi anymore and his command is handed over to Jinlip (Ahn
Sung-kee), an older and more experienced army officer who has always had a
soft spot for Yeosol, whom almost everyone else treats with disrespect,
even though he is the fiercest fighter of the bunch and has saved the
Princess' life numerous times.
Ultimately the caravan takes posession of an abandoned fortress to best
defend themselves against the Mongols, but the situation among the caravan
itself is tense to breaking point even without the Mongols - which at one
point almost leads to Yeosol and Choi killing each other ... but when the
Mongols attack, they finally realize each other's virtues and fight side
by side ...
In a very bloody battle, our small group of Koreans manages to
overcomethe Mongols who vastly outnumber them, but both Choi and Yeosol
have to leave their lives, with Yeosol saving the Princess# life one last
time catching a spear meant for her and finally killing Mongol General
The survivors led by Jinlip go back to Korea while the Princess is free
to go wherever she likes.
On a directorial level, Musa is nothing short of impressive,
every frame seems to be carefully composed without looking artificial, the
many battle scenes really pack a punch and are absolutely gory and as
gruesome as you would expect a battle to be, and the historical sets,
props and costumes work for the film instead of dragging it down. That all
said, Musa is not the great historical epic it could and should
have been, what it boasts in direction it lacks in script: actually the
basic storyline about two men fighting for the attention of a woman is
pretty feeble, with most of the film's subplots adding precious little to
the proceedings, especially since most of them are nothing but overused
clichés. Plus, all the characters are incredibly flat, especially the
main characters and especially Zhang Ziyi's Princess, who doesn't seem to
have any character trait of her own at all - and unfortunately give the
actress very little to work with.
It's not that the films is a total waste of time, it's still great to
look at and it does have its tense moments - it just could have been so