In Mandarin with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Starring: Zhang Hanyu, Deng Chao, Yuan Wenkang,
Tang Yan, Liao Fan, Wang Baoqiang
RunTime: 2 hrs 4 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: NC-16 (Battle Scenes)
Day: 3 January 2008
War feasts upon death, it’s greedy appetite carries
away many a life on the battlefield, and soldiers must be
ready to die at any time.
all these sacrifices can be given meaning and reason with
honor. A weathered witness of war's insatiable appetite, Guzidi,
Captain of the Ninth Company, will struggle his entire life
to return honor to his forty-six comrades and their self-sacrifice…
year 1948 witnessed the launch of the Huaihai Campaign during
the Chinese Civil War. In one of Chinese history's deadliest
battles, thousands from the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
and the Nationalist Army (KMT) went into a battle that took
place between Xuzhou and Bengdu.
was during this bloody fight that Captain Guzidi led the Ninth
Company infantry unit on a sniper mission. His orders were
to fight the KMT Army until the retreat assembly call was
sounded. Yet, after many long hours of painstaking resistance,
Gu watched powerlessly as the ammunition ran out and the scant
ranks of the Ninth Company grew sparser still.
men were falling one by one. On the brink of death, Lieutenant
Jiao Dapeng, Gu's best partner, announced that he heard the
call and asked Gu to retreat with the remaining soldiers.
The dying man's words spread doubt within the remainder of
the company, but Gu insisted that the bugle had not sounded
and that they were to continue fighting at all costs. Not
until later did Gu realize that all the neighboring troops
had already left the field, and that his entire company may
sacrificed in vain because of his stubborn obedience.
by anger and guilt, Gu marched straight into the enemy's trench.
But his life was spared, and he had no choice but to shoulder
the gargantuan weight of guilt and mystery that would burden
the remainder of his life…
A few days later, Gu woke up in a hospital. While among the
KMT ranks, he had been wounded and captured by the PLA. He
had lost his identity, and quickly learnt that without a survivor
to vouch for them, the forty-six men who had bravely sacrificed
their lives under him had simply gone missing.
joined the infantry of the Liberation Army and painstakingly
climbed up the lower rungs of the military ladder. Determined
to prove the glorious death of his forty-six comrades, Gu
embarks on a journey in search of those who hold the key to
the mystery of the bugle call.
From Steven Spielberg’s World War II Saving Private
Ryan (1998) to Kang Je-gyu’s Korean blockbuster Tae
Guk Ki (2004), the genre of war movies have always been the
perfect vehicle for local national servicemen to bond and
yak about their opinions on patriotism and brotherhood. While
we do not remember any prominent Mainland Chinese war epic,
we have always been sure that they can produce an impressive
drama, given their rich histories and the availability of
magnificent film locations.
when award-winning director Feng Xiaogang announced that he
is going to make a war movie, we knew that it won’t
go very wrong. And besides its remarkable production value,
this movie also gives us one of the most touching performances
we have ever seen on screen by actor Zhang Hanyu.
plays a captain of the Communist Liberation Army who leads
his company in a battle against the Nationalist Kuomintang
Forces, and eventually becomes the only man to survive the
wars he fought in. What began as a civil war in 1949 became
a man’s quest to fight for truth during peacetime in
is without doubt that the movie has approached the genre from
an interesting angle, focusing not just on the war, but also
the dramatic emotions of the men who fought in the war. This
makes the movie both an exciting war picture as well as a
moving human drama.
known for his constant box-office in China for movies like
A World Without Thieves (2004) and The Banquet (2006), has
produced another sure-win picture this time round, but has
done it without featuring big names. Unlike the superstars
in his previous works, his latest movie features an obscure
cast. The only face you’d probably recognize is Hu Jun
(Lan Yu, Infernal Affairs III), who plays an official with
limited screen time.
124-minute movie clearly belongs to leading man Zhang, who
affectively brings out the heartrending emotions of a man
who sticks by his principles and beliefs. Based on a true
life story, Zhang crafts his role with so well, you may even
be shedding a tear or two during the picture’s many
stirring scenes. Watch out for simple yet effective scenes
where Zhang cleverly diverts the American enemy’s attention
by spouting gibberish, how he has a simple conversation with
his blood brother outside a hospital ward, and how he finds
out a hurting truth at a compatriot’s war memorial grave.
what is a war movie without the captivating battle sequences?
You’d be wowed by the numerous explosions, the countless
extras, the real tanks which were destroyed, and not forgetting
the graphically violent blood and dismembered limbs. Captured
on lens with intentional grey cinematography and shot with
a constantly shaky camera, the scenes are top-rate and are
comparable to Hollywood productions. What’s more, they
arrest our attention with its discomforting look at war, and
tops it all off with an affecting story of one man who stuck
to his beliefs amidst the chaos.
to its superb production value and the cast’s stellar
performances, the picture is both gritty war movie and a poignant
Review by John Li