Reviewed by: dandan
Summary: sound the retreat...
china, 1948. captain gu zidi (zhang hanyu) has fallen out of favour with his superiors after a slightly distasteful episode with some prisoners of war. after a token dressing down and punishment, he and his 47 men of the 9th company, 3rd battalion, 139th regiment, are given the unenviable task of defending a river crossing from the advancing troops of the nationalist army, until they hear the call to retreat or until they are all dead...
following on from the success of 'the banquet', feng xiaogang returns with a similarly epic tale. 'the assembly', far from being the fiercely pro-p.r.c. propaganda piece which i expected it to be, is a fantastically well executed drama, which manages to blend the struggles of war and bureaucracy together, telling the tale of captain gu.
whilst zhang does a great job of portraying a few decades of gu's life, feng et al create an interesting film, with some rather super set pieces: i was quite taken aback at the film's opening foray into urban warfare, which is quite a spectacle.
Reviewed by: Libretio
Summary: War drama falls short of expectations
Reviewer Score: 3
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Soundtrack: Dolby Digital
Lauded by many commentators as a rousing wartime epic, Feng Xiaogang's ASSEMBLY - a Hong Kong/China co-production - amounts to less than the sum of its parts and may confound western viewers unfamiliar with Chinese history. Based on a true story of unquestioned heroism, the film headlines Zhang Hanyu (A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES) as a loyal soldier seeking justice and recognition for the men who died under his command during the Chinese Civil War between Communist and Nationalist forces.
The film's opening half is dominated by visceral battle scenes, the equal of anything in previous blockbusters SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) and BROTHERHOOD: TAE GUK GI (2004), while the second half follows Zhang's increasingly desperate post-war efforts to locate the bodies of his fallen comrades (the battleground where they died is now buried under tons of coal) and restore their military honor.
Liu Heng's screenplay tries in vain to combine large-scale action with heartfelt emotional drama, but the various elements are sadly mismatched: Ultra-fast editing reduces the battle scenes to a blur of images, rendering chaotic what should have been traumatic and devastating. And the film's emotional pay-off is compromised because so few of the soldiers are rendered as anything other than mere ciphers, delineated in a brief scribble of 'characterization' before they're all summarily dispatched in a welter of blood and gore.
The intended epic sweep is further undermined by too-tight framing (the widescreen format is totally wasted here) and a cold-grey colour scheme which blooms into something warmer and more inviting as the film progresses. Production values are classy and performances are uniformly excellent, but overall, Feng's 'masterpiece' falls short of its noble intentions.