THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN (长津湖) (2021)

Genre: War/Action
Director: Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark, Dante Lam
Cast: Wu Jing, Jackson Yee, Duan Yihong, Zhu Yawen, Li Chen, Hu Jun, Han Dongjun, Zhang Hanyu, Huang Xuang, Oho Ou
Runtime: 2 hr 56 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence & Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Official Website:

Opening Day: 11 November 2021

Synopsis: The story takes place in winter, 1950. In the freezing cold Changjin Lake region, a bloody battle between the United States and China begins. Faced with the harshest conditions of extreme cold, lack of rations and vast difference in weaponry, the Chinese troops forge ahead, fearless and determined. They successfully blow up the Shuimen Bridge, making the most critical victory in the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea.

Movie Review: 

Turns out that Wu Jing’s segment about the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in the recent My Country, My Parents was just a teaser of what’s to come on the big screen. Also released over China's National Day holiday, this war drama is an epic blockbuster that has a whopping 176 minute runtime. It tells the historical story of the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War. Expectedly, it is seen from the Chinese’s point of view where soldiers fought courageously against the United Nations led by the Americans.

Wu headlines the movie as a valiant People's Liberation Army commander who is brought to the frontlines of the battlefield with his loyal comrades, including his younger brother (Jackson Yee) who decided to leave home to join his elder brother to fight the war. The story also has it that the two men’s eldest brother died fighting the ongoing war not too long ago. The sense of patriotism is strong as the tragedy hadn’t deterred the protagonists from roughing it out in the tough terrains.

The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast. The flashy lineup includes well known stars in China’s showbiz: Duan Yihong, Zhu Yawen, Li Chen, Hu Jun, Zhang Hanyu, Huang Xuan and Oho Ou. You would have seen these men in some other Chinese films recently. Most of the characters in the movie are fictionalised army soldiers and commanders. The filmmakers did not waste the opportunity to include real life figures like Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and other notable figures who have contributed to the war.

You wouldn’t expect a puny budget for a film like this. Made with a reported amount of US$200 million, it has already become the highest grossing film of 2021 in China and globally (we aren’t expecting any other title to beat that), and is the second highest grossing title of all time at China's box office, after Wolf Warrior 2 (2017) starring – surprise, surprise – the testosterone filled Wu.

With such a star studded cast, no expense would have been spared on the directors too. We don’t recall any other movie helmed by not one, not two, but three big names in the directing world. Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam are known for their illustrious careers, and each of them has a different style. Film fans would know titles like Farewell My Concubine (1993), the Once Upon a Time in China series and Unbeatable (2013). Each filmmaker brings something to the film. The explosive action sequences that give Michael Baya run for his money are probably courtesy of Lam, while the captivating visual style which elevate the battle scenes are probably Tsui’s influence. Chen is probably the master behind the touching emotional scenes which involve farewells and sacrifices.

If you have watched enough films from China, you will know that they are made with the objective to stir the people’s patriotic feelings. This one is no different. While cynics will scoff at the portrayal of one dimensional Americans and how the story unabashedly over glorifies the Chinese soldiers, it is, after all, a commissioned film to mark the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Put these aside and you’ll get an epic war movie with lots of human drama to tug at your heartstrings.

Movie Rating:

(Strap yourself in for a three-hour war epic bursting with testosterone, action sequences, explosions and human drama)

Review by John Li


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