Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Hu Jun, Liao Fan, Wang Baoqiang, Tang Yang, Zhang Hanyu
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Tai Seng Entertainment Release Date: 05/26/2009 Run time: 124 minutes
Feng Xiaogang's Chinese War Epic is a Cinematic Achievement
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 06/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Feng Xiaogang is better known for colorful epics such as "The Banquet" in the U.S.. Well, the Chinese filmmaker is poised to redefine war epics in the Chinese war film "The ASSEMBLY" (2007). The Chinese have dubbed this film as their answer to the award-winning film by Spielberg; "Saving Private Ryan" and to South Korea`s "Tae Guk Gi". The film is a powerful achievement in Chinese cinema, because of the humanity of its portrayal and the technically sound intense battle sequences. The film was inspired by true events.
The film takes place during the Chinese civil war of 1948 between the Communist People's Liberation Army and the Nationalist Kuomin Tang forces (KMT). Captain Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) leads the 9th Company (139th Regiment) and the group is determined to win at any cost. Gu did time in prison for killing his captive P.O.W.'s after they've already surrendered. Reassigned to the frontlines to defend a mineral mine from the approaching KMT Army, the 9th company is outgunned and outnumbered by the approaching army--this KMT Army is equipped with tanks, and heavy artillery. Gu's 9th company suffer heavy losses that leads to the men arguing as whether they should fight or retreat, they are supposed to retreat once they hear a Bugle call but Gu's hearing has been impaired during one of the assaults. Some soldiers say that they heard it while some didn't--Gu is unable to verify whether or not the Bugle call has been made, so he commits his men to fight on--to the very last man standing.
The first half of the film focuses on the 9th company's experiences in the frontline. The film's battle sequences are among the best I've seen and undoubtedly the best ever produced in Chinese cinema. The sequences are gripping, intense and riveting as you see the men of the 9th company fight on to the last man. Shot in a grayish hue, (almost black and white) and shaky camera work, the film has that very realistic feel. Director Feng manages to shoot the scenes with a lot of power and intensity--although I have to say that some of the shots isn't exactly very harmonious or doesn't really mesh well as with "Saving Private Ryan". There is a lot of blood and gore, a lot of spewing mud and powerful explosions. Don't get me wrong, the scenes are VERY exciting and riveting but for some reason, it felt that it lacked an emotional connection; the disagreements between Gu and his C.O. Wang (Yuan Wenkang) does have its merits but I thought they were just your usual conflicts. The battle sequences are indeed a near stellar achievement in Chinese cinema, but without a proper inner conflict, the scenes lose some of its effect. The usual overwhelming army against a small band of soldiers have been done numerous times before but hey, the battle isn't any less exciting.
The second half of the film focuses on Gu's struggle as a half-deaf war veteran. Director Feng does successfully flesh out its main character as Gu first enlists in the Korean war before he attempts a post-war existence. For some reason, any records of the 9th company or Gu himself has been lost by record keepers. Gu becomes very frustrated that the sacrifices of his men are unrecognized by the country they fought for--to ensure the continued power of the State. I think Feng was trying to move to a political commentary as we all know the score: Bureaucrats tend to use soldiers as expendable resources and make body counts irrelevant for the common good. Sadly, this is the work of a soldier.
The film's human drama itself becomes very predictable and offers nothing new. Please keep in mind that Feng is a very mainstream Chinese director and of course, he would never make a critical war film. The movie is very China-friendly and full of flag-waving elements. The inner issues Gu experiences is very defined but the film itself offers no surprises in this regard. Serving in the People's army is portrayed as a righteous cause and the existing authority figures will no doubt take care of its soldiers. Thankfully, Zhang Hanyu's performance is convincing enough although some scenes had the dangerous potential to become overly melodramatic.
"THE ASSEMBLY" is not a perfect film. The film's main premise is very involving but it just doesn't really "click" as a "pure" epic war film. I have a few ideas as to how this film could have been better--Feng's decision to avoid the political issues somewhat kills the film's emotional potential. Instead, the director opts to make the portrayal of war in human "effect" and sidesteps any indictment or finger-pointing at any political body for the causes of war itself. Feng's war epic is very "friendly" and it never approaches the level of excellence in emotions as achieved by other war films. The film is very "human" in its approach and very sympathetic--although not entirely patriotic. The film offers nothing surprising or offers a complex dramatic resolution. The film never chooses a side (Feng Xiaogang would be banned from filmmaking if he did so) and the film is definitely geared towards an international audience. "The Assembly"'s emotional content is very basic but despite its massive commercial appeal, the film still commands high esteem.
Highly Recommended![4+ Stars]
A matter of honour - the bugle call
Gisli Jokull Gislason | Iceland | 06/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are quite a few War Movies made about soldiers reminiscent of war. Saving Private Ryan, Brotherhood, Flags of Our Fathers and Days of Glory to name a few. This movie ranks with the best of them.
This movie is surprising in many ways. First of its production values are very high and on par with the best of Hollywood or European Cinema. In fact this is a much better movie than Enemy at the Gates or Flags of Our Fathers and is quite possibly what Flags wanted to be. It takes some getting used to watching a Chinese movie that feels European.
The story is in two parts.
The first half is a continuation of battle scenes that are among the best in war movies for some time. The prespective is at company level so you get quite big battles but it is possible to focus on individuals. Scenery and unit detail is incredible and everything is well done. There is a small dash of theatrics but for the most part these are very realistic gritty battle scenes with excellent cinema work. As I said the best to be seen for quite some time, I would say on par with Band of Brothers except the scenes are bigger and more impressive than in the television series. Attention to detail is of high quality and viewers will be treated to quite a novel experience such as oil barrel mortars. War movie enthusiast should be well pleased. Also the movie throws you right in there from the start with no sentimental scenes of old men in war cemeteries, lying in their dying bed etc.
The second part is a story of redemption. As a survivor Gu Zidi tries to piece togeather what happened and redeem his brothers and himself. This part of the movie is a very Chinese story set in the post civil war Communist state of China and will be harder on the general audience. The important part is if the bodies of the dead are not found then the soldiers are MIA and their families honour is tarnished. Their deaths are worth 200 barrels of rice but would be 700 barrels if the died heroes of Liberation, but that is merely trying to put a price to honour, and the Chinese take honour very seriously. This one man struggle is hard since record keeping in the civil war is sketchy at best and the battlefield has turned into a mountain of coal from nearby mines. Close to the end a solitary veteran is trying to dig at the mountain of coal to redeem his brothers.
The pace of the two stories is very different but the story is focused, linear and is free from going constantly back and forth. Historically it is interesting in that I don't recall any other movie set in the post World War 2 Chinese Civil War although this movie goes on to the Korean War. Nor is this movie any kind of white wash with clear boundries. It goes on in shades of gray.
I thought the movie was good, in fact probably the best one of its kind. I liked how the story went in a straight line instead of going back and forth but it did break the story into 2 distinct halves. War movie buffs will find pleanty to like as will those with an interest in Chinese history if they can stomach the first half and even then there are interesting things such as lack of equipment of the communists and the portrayal of the Chinese soldiers and the conduct of the communist forces. In this day and age when it has become popular to demonize Mao, people tend to forget that there was a reason why the communists won. I recommend Assembly and look forward to seeing more of this new Chinese Cinema."
THE CATASTROPHY OF WAR
Capt. Lou Costello | Asia | 08/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"and the misery that comes to those who are caught up in it is brought to frightening reality on the big screen in this masterfully filmed effort by Feng Xiaogang. The story of a Chinese regiment fighting against the Nationalists in the brutal civil war manages to tug at almost every human emotion. The protagonist officer who leads his men in a savage last stand is perfectly portrayed. The scenes of warfare in this movie are very well done and manage to do so without demonizing the enemy as in so many war films. For those of you who know such things, and there are many, the range of weaponry used in this film spans the the entire history of modern warfare for the Chinese from the 1920's on through the war in Korea and adds greatly to the intense realism of the film. Watch for the scene in which the Captain sees what has become of the old helmets once used by the soldiers.
The main character, Captain Gu Zidi, superbly played by Zhang Hanyu, cannot give up the memory of his lost men and never ceases in his struggle to have their memory honored. The portrayal of this struggle by this one man gives this film everything thing it needs for great drama. This work has a far stronger story than "Saving Private Ryan" and in modern cinema can only be rivaled by South Korea's "Tae Guk Gi". This is not only a great war film but is one of the very best films of any kind I have been privileged to see in recent years."