Director: Teng Bee
Cast: Tosh Chan, Mark Lee, Yeo Yann Yann, Jake Eng, Rosyam Nor, Freddy Wong, Ashley Hua
Runtime: 2 hrs 5 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 15 March 2018
Synopsis: Biopic on Malaysia’s badminton icon Datuk Wira Lee Chong Wei, who was born in a poor family. Starting with his early years as an aspiring young badminton player from Bukit Mertajam, all the way to becoming a world champion.
Malaysian viewers would feel patriotic watching this biopic film directed by Teng Bee on national icon Lee Chong Wei. There are several scenes in the movie with the Malaysian flag flapping beautifully in the air - you know, like how the American flag was featured in the Spider Man franchise.
The affection for Lee is apt. The 35 year old professional badminton player was ranked first worldwide for 199 consecutive weeks from August 2008 to June 2012, making him the only Malaysian singles player to hold the ranking for more than a year. With three silver medals from the Olympic Games, it is no wonder the achievement earned him the title Datuk, with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak describing him as a national hero.
Teng’s movie isn’t about Lee’s countless wins. It is about how the most successful Malaysian Olympian in history rose from poverty to become the successful badminton player he is today. Based on Lee's 2012 autobiography Dare to Be a Champion, the film chronicles Lee’s journey from Bagan Serai, Perak, to a world-class shuttler.
The 125 minute movie is everything you’d expect from an inspirational sports film. The protagonist is a small town character with big dreams. He has supportive family members and friends around him, as well as saboteurs who make things different for him. He experiences many obstacles before he realises his dream. At the end, he is a role model people look up to.
While there is nothing spectacularly innovative about the screenplay, it serves its purpose of telling a story brimming with positive messages. Got a dream? Chase it with purpose. Faced with hurdles? Overcome them with determination. Love a good game of badminton? Play it with all you’ve got. While the plot is based on Lee’s life, much of it is probably dramatised to make for good storytelling material. You can expect melodrama in the form of moving scenes and quote worthy lines, and some sequences may even make you tear a little.
Jake Eng and Tosh Chan play the young and older Lee respectively, and the two deliver fine performances. Eng is adorable as a primary school boy who goes against all odds to play the game, while Chan (who looks a lot like Lee) handles his portion of the film with the right amount of charm. You really want to root for this good natured teenager as he enters National Badminton Academy, gets bullied by privileged peers, falls in love and making it out tops. Elsewhere, you will also be impressed by the acting prowess from Mark Lee (Wonderful! Liang Xi Mei), Yeo Yann Yann (You Mean the World to Me) and Rosyam Nor (KL Special Force) who play Lee’s father, mother and national team coach respectively.
What is a movie about a badminton player without exhilarating badminton sequences? The movie, which boasts top notch production values, captures the thrill and excitement of badminton games. From the underground games to the training sessions, you will as excited as the bystanders on screen.
The movie wouldn’t be complete if it doesn’t showcase the competition between Lee and China’s Lin Dan, which is considered greatest rivalry in badminton history. The cinematography for their games is brilliant, especially for the finale match depicting the 2006 Malaysian Open final. You will want to stand up and cheer for the protagonist as he fights back from 13–20 and scores eight match points against Lin, and finally won the game with a score of 23–21 to secure the title. That’s a winner worth cheering for.
(An inspiring movie about a sportsman who dared to dream big and gave it his all to become a champion - this is a motivational tale for all ages)
Review by John Li