Director: Andrew Lau Wai Keung
Cast: Zhang Hanyu, Yuan Quan, Zhu Yawen, Li Chen, Jackson Yee, Ou Hao
Runtime: 2 hrs 9 mins
Rating: PG (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 5 August 2021
Synopsis: The No. 1 Movie in China that grossed over USD140 million in 11 days; based on true events of the COVID-19 in Wuhan. From the same team who brought us THE CAPTAIN. The movie pays tribute to Chinese medical workers and ordinary people, especially those who worked at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, by focusing on their fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan in early 2020. On New Year’s Eve in 2020, an unknown virus spreads from Wuhan to other places. The number of patients is increasing at an explosive rate. People are horrified by the powerful and highly infectious virus. The unprecedented survival crisis causes grief and panic. A little-known infectious disease hospital, Jiang Han, is chosen as a designated hospital. Zhang Jingyu, president of the hospital, suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Together with the Respiratory Department director, young interns and head nurse of the ICU, Zhang faces numerus challenges and accidents while he perseveres to save patients at the frontline. In a race against time and death, they work around the clock to transform the isolation ward for a large number of critically ill patients. In the midst of the time of the Spring Festival travel rush, facing the threat of the unstoppable epidemic, Wuhan, the thoroughfare of nine provinces, deals with never-ending hardships persistently. With new infections on the rise, critical decisions must be made immediately before dire consequences occur.
Do we need a movie to remind us about the contributions of healthcare workers during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? Obviously we do. And while we are at it, why not put the spotlight on Wuhan, where the first coronavirus infectious case in China was reported.
The blockbuster focuses on the series of events that took place in early 2020, where Wuhan’s Jintinyan Hospital became the front line of the battle against the virus. The central character is the hospital’s head, portrayed perfectly by veteran actor Zhang Hanyu. Other figures who have substantial screen time in the 129 minute movie include the hospital’s ICU director (every movie needs a strong female character, and this one is played by Yuan Quan), visiting doctors from Shanghai and Guangzhou (Li Chen and Zhu Yawen delivering emotionally relatable performances), a young doctor trying his best to learn from seniors (Jackson Yee putting his youthful vibes to good use), a delivery driver (Ou Hao does a fine job in making us feel that the virus can hit anytime and anywhere) and his pregnant wife (Zhou Ye is a role that will effortlessly move audiences).
And when a Chinese production this calculated is made, you can be sure no expenses were spared in gathering a spectacular ensemble cast to take on supporting roles. You may identify familiar faces like William Feng, Bibi Zhou, Zhang Zifeng, Tong Liya, Huang Lu and Shi Xiaolong as minor characters. The efforts paid off when it earned USD$53.5 million during its opening weekend in China. It sure helped that the movie was screened on IMAX screens – you know, just to get the full impact of the drama.
Helmed by Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau, this patriotic movie doesn’t need to be subtle. It goes all out to sing praises of how the pandemic was managed by the Chinese government, and how China came together to curb the spread of the virus. Characters expectedly do not have shades of grey, and everyone is contributing for the greater good. Maybe this positive spirit is much needed in today’s cynical society.
Viewers should be pretty familiar with the sacrifices from healthcare workers (expect to see countless shots of exhausted doctors and nurses, complete with red marks from wearing protective face masks), and what stands out better are the stories of the common folks. Besides the delivery driver and his pregnant wife, some pockets of time are left for the girl who lost both her parents to the virus, the grandson who is reluctant to let the medical professionals conduct research on his late grandmother’s body, and the patient whom we thought would survive after being extubated. There is no lack of tear jerking sequences, so you may hear sobbing from fellow viewers.
In other cases, dream sequences may seem cheesy, but it somehow works in a particular scene in this movie. We are guessing the song “Willing To Replace You” playing in the background is an apt choice. It is interesting to note that the cover sung by Mao Buyi was originally performed by Ekin Cheng for Young & Dangerous III, a 1996 hit also directed by Lau. The other noteworthy tune is the movie’s end credit song “A Passing Thunderstorm” performed by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung, a song written by Jay Chou and Fang Wen Shan to commemorate healthcare heroes.
Lau was also the director behind the commercially successful air disaster movie The Captain (2019), which starred Zhang, Yuan, Zhu and Ou. With this movie celebrating the healthcare workers and the everyday heroes who are contributing in different ways in the COVID-19 war, we won’t be surprised if Lau will be helming another Chinese blockbuster soon.
(The impressive ensemble cast delivers emotionally stirring performances in this patriotic Chinese blockbuster which will especially appeal to viewers who love melodramas)
Review by John Li