Director: Lee Jun
Cast: Zhu Yilong, Huang Zhizhong, Chen Shu, Jiao Junyan, Chen Taisheng
Runtime: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating: PG (Some Intense Sequences)
Released By: Clover Films
Opening Day: 21 October 2021
Synopsis: Hong Yizhou, the acting chief engineer of the Yunjiang Tunnel Project, felt abnormal geological activity due to a tunnel flooding accident and went into the mountain to repair the sensor. He asked his girlfriend Lu Xiaojin to pick up his father Lao Hong who came to visit the project and visit him. Suddenly the station where Lao Hong stayed collapsed and Lao Hong plunged into the ground to save people. Yizhou quickly went to the rescue. Lao Hong used his skills as a railroad soldier and led the survivors to escape. He ran into Yizhou on the way out, but they had a lot of contradictions because of their different ideas. The hole where Yizhou came in was buried, and the new escape exit was blocked by the water. Yizhou was afraid of water because his mother died from drowning, so Lao Hong went into the water to search. When Lao Hong was exhausted and his consciousness was about to become blurred, Yizhou finally overcame the mental barrier and saved his father. And they also let go of their past. After they returned to the ground, Yizhou learned that the landslide was threatening the safety of the town nearby. So the China Railway Construction’s manager Ding Yajun decided to explode the tunnel to project the town. Yizhou found an ideal solution to save the town and also keep the tunnel by dropping explosives in a high-risk crack. Lao Hong assisted Yizhou regardless of the danger, and finally succeeded. However, Lao Hong died, and was left in this land ever since……
China has come to the point that it’s ready to deliver yet another Roland Emmerich style, crowd pleasing, eye-popping CGI disaster fest in your local cinema after The Wandering Earth which skipped the local theatrical release.
Lee Jun’s Cloudy Mountain drops you straight into the action without much of an introduction or a prologue. The plot is fairly simplistic. A geographical disturbance is detected in an underground tunnelling project and engineer Hong Yizhou (Zhu Yilong) and his colleague and conveniently also love interest, Lu Xiaojin (Jiao Junyan) are sent to investigate.
Before long, a massive quake and sinkhole occurred in town and Yizhou’s estranged dad, Hong (Huang Zhizhong) who came to visit his son volunteers himself to save some trapped survivors which include a vlogger, a vet, a runaway kid and an insurance seller. However, a subsequent quake causes them to be trapped under a cave and the busy Yizhou has to first recover some precious geological data before rescuing the group of survivors.
Expectedly, Yizhou and his dad formed the main core of the movie which provides some need be emotional and also heroic moments. Apparently, Yizhou bores a grudge against his dad for being absence during the accidental death of his mom. Hong being the old school, tough father who knows nuts in communicating with his son except teaching him survival skills and such. Even while the pacing is relentless, you can always relied on the father and son pair to at least hold your interest before the next massive elaborate CGI set piece arrives.
As a movie partly financed by China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) which specialised in building railway, tunnels and bridges, there’s a subplot involving the manager of the tunnel project, Ding (Chen Shu) who ponders between saving the tunnel or the people every minute onscreen. It’s no surprise as to what Ding decides on in the end as the nationalistic spirit continues to live on proudly in the hearts of every Chinese.
Certainly without the presence of Yizhou and his dad, Cloudy Mountain will be filled with cardboard characters and meaningless talking heads liked those played by veterans Cheng Taishen and Zhang Guoli. These roles serve only one purpose that is to cram as much bureaucracy into one movie. At least the character of Hong serves as a homage to the generations of rail workers who risked their lives building the numerous infrastructures seen today.
Comparable to most major American disaster movies out there, the effects work are mostly convincing given that the CG plates are combined beautifully with actual landscapes shot in picturesque Guizhou. Instead of filming in a controlled studio environment, we heard the filmmakers also went into a steep cave for authenticity sake. There are also some exaggerated car stunts in the vein of The Fast and Furious saga courtesy of Hong Kong stunt choreographer, Bruce Law.
Even though there is a preposterous stunt in the finale, the movie ends on a happy somewhat meaningful note before it wears out its welcome. There’s nothing inventive here just escapist fun and the usual disaster movie tropes. If you are a huge fan of Roland Emmerich, then you should ascend Cloudy Mountain with ease.
(China is ready to take on Hollywood and Roland Emmerich! Prepare to ascend Cloudy Mountain now!)
Review by Linus Tee