The Tiger Blu-ray Review
The man fights the blistering cold as he treks up Mt. Jirisan in South Korea. He stops to eat a handful of ice and snow and later teaches his son about survival. His family has grown hungry in their location and it is up to the father, Chun Man-Dul (Choi Min-sik, Luc Besson’s LUCY), to hunt. In the forest, Chun Man-Dul clutches his rifle. The beast breathes and snarls and growls. Chun Man-Dul aims his gun at the tiger, yet pauses. It is only when the animal charges that he shoots it.
Years later, in 1925, an officer in the Korean army is commanded by a prominent Japanese government official and collector to kill the last tiger in the Jirisan range, which has been nicknamed the Mountain Lord. The officer and a group of fellow hunters head out to find the tiger, which proves to be a far more daunting task than the team figured.
The idea to bring in the retired Chun Man-Dul is not lost on officials, but a determined hunter named Goo-Gyeong (Jung Man-sik, 2015’s VETERAN)—who we know is not a man to root for based on the mass of scars on his face—refuses. Expectedly, however, Chun Man-Dul is pulled out of exile once his money-seeking son (Sung Yoo-bin, in his feature debut) becomes involved. And as more is revealed about the relationship between Chun Man-Dul and the Mountain Lord (it all seems a bit far-fetched all in the name of trying to develop both), the stakes rise.
Modern pro-animal rights activists will surely be disgusted by the general idea here, as well as the tiger deaths presented. But there is more depth to the story here than just a handful of hunters setting out to slay a tiger. While the plot does center on the hunt for and slaying of the titular beast on Jirisan, THE TIGER (also known as THE TIGER: AN OLD HUNTER’S TALE) is, at its core, about identity.
There are characters who struggle to confront their desires, a child who wants to change his life despite loyalty and men who betray their heritage in the name of money. That the film is set in a time when Japan occupied Korea highlights further, more politically driven complexities.
And then there is the tiger itself. While there is a certain aspect in the tiger that is wholly forced and nears territory that is on the silly side (calling to mind Ellen Brody’s paranoia that the sharks are specifically targeting her), watching the animal move, pounce and attack is quite a sight. Formed from CGI, the tiger has a stunning look to it as well as the intensity of the bear from THE REVENENT. (Interestingly, the films premiered just one day apart.)
Director Park Hoon-Jung (2013’s NEW WORLD) lingers a bit long in many scenes (the runtime is close to two and a half hours), but when focused, presents a compelling story that honors the conflicts and understandings between man and beast.
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. THE TIGER looks amazing in high-definition, with excellent details and stunning locales. The titular animal, despite being entirely CGI, also looks lifelike, adding to the intensity of the more action-oriented sequences.
Audio: Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. The Korean dialogue is clear and the aforementioned action scenes come through the speakers with full effect.