Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Jing Wu, Ziyi Zhang, Yi Zhang, Boran Jing, Ge Hu, Jingchun Wang, Lin He, Long Chen, Xiaofeng Liu, Quni Ciren, Lavant Rob, DopGyal, Jackie Chan
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Rating: PG (Some Intense Sequences)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 10 October 2019
Synopsis: In 1960, the Chinese National Mountaineering Team launched an expedition to Mount Everest. and reached the summit from its north side for the first time in human history but failed to leave concrete evidence. Fifteen years later, former mountaineers FANG Wuzhou (WU Jing) and QU Songlin (ZHANG Yi) were reassembled with a new generation of mountaineers including LI Guoliang (JING Boran) and YANG Guang (HU Ge) to measure the world’s highest with the help of meteorologist, XU Ying (ZHANG Ziyi) -- Fang’s beloved woman. It is a life and death mission for everyone and the extreme climate favors none.
Think you have seen enough mountaineering movies? Older viewers would remember Cliffhanger (1993) and Vertical Limit (2000), while recent notable titles include 127 Hours (2010) and Everest (2015). This Chinese production takes things to a whole new level by coinciding its theatrical release with China’s 70th National Day celebrations.
And how apt it is to adapt this real life event where a trio of Chinese mountaineers reached the summit of Mount Everestin 1960, but things did not turn out all joyous because they did not provide photographic evidence to make it an official achievement. Oh, the shame! Living in regret, the team continued looking for a chance to redeem themselves. In 1975, a younger team was formed to climb the treacherous mountain and the older men get to play mentors.
Patriotism is on full mode in this 125 minute movie directed by Daniel Lee (Dragon Blade) and produced by Tsui Hark (Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings). The characters unanimously have one goal in mind, and that is to bring glory to the country and mark its place on Earth’s highest peak above sea level.
As China’s 70th birthday present, the filmmakers got the biggest names in Chinese showbiz to headline the action blockbuster. Wu Jing (The Wandering Earth) is the man of the hour, allowing the superstar to exude his signature manliness (this is for fans of Wolf Warrior 2). Zhang Yi (Operation Red Sea) is the man who has been living in shame for a mistake he unintentionally made, while Zhang Ziyi (Godzilla: King of Monsters) plays a meteorology researcher who has a back story with Wu. Younger actors include Jing Boran (Monster Hunt 2) who plays an earnest photographer and Hu Ge (1911) is an enthusiastic member who wants to climb the mountain despite his genetic disorder. Jackie Chan (The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang) cameos as an older version of one of the characters.
The action sequences are exhilarating choreographed, and you will be hanging on to your seats hoping that the characters will survive the ordeals. It also makes you wish you will never have to go through such difficult situations where your fitness and persistence are put to the test. The physical and mental hardship definitely isn’t something us mere mortals can endure. The cast have given their all to be part of this movie, and you can tell that the shoots were probably not the most comfortable and relaxed sessions.
However, the movie also tries a little too hard to make you feel for the characters with its melodrama. Inserted between the engaging action scenes, these side stories do not work well as they spoil the momentum of the movie. Furthermore, the result isn’t optimal as we did not walk out of the theatre feeling that the romance between Zhang and Wu worked.
What is spot on though, is the nationalistic spirit that the movie has conveyed. You can only imagine how the Mainland Chinese would feel about the epic achievements of their countrymen.
(The exhilarating action sequences are the highlight of this patriotic movie, not the unecessary melodrama)
Review by John Li