• Ji Jie Hao / Assembly (2007) - Too many side stories in one movie - 6/10 (02/09/13)

    Ji Jie Hao /Assembly (2007)

     

    "Assembly" is a Chinese war movie made in collaboration with the special effects and stunt coordinators from the Korean war epic "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War" which is one of the greatest modern war movies along with "My Way".

    Despite the great war scenes, "Assembly" doesn't come close to the high quality of the aforementioned titles.

    The viewer is thrown too fast into the story. It's 1948 and wartime in China. We follow the fate of Captain Gu Zidi of the Ninth Company. That's where some viewers might already feel mixed up. Who is at war and why? The movie doesn't explain this issue properly. Let me tell you that we are in the middle of the second wave of the Chinese Civil War. By the end of the Second Sino-Japanese which basically was the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, Communist troops of the later People's Republic of China and nationalist troops of the Kuomintang and the later Republic of China relocated to Taiwan picked up their hostilities again that first erupted back in 1927 and that only came to an end in 1949 when the Communists won. Captain Gu Zidi is representing the Communists and is invading a small town occupied by the Nationalists. He wins the battle with severe casualties. When his political officer dies, he loses his temper and orders in vain to shoot the surviving war prisoners. This brutal attempt leads to a short punishment where Gu Zidi meets an intellectual pacifist and teacher. The two different men befriend each other. Upon Gu's request, the teacher becomes the new political officer who accompanies the Ninth Company to protect an old strategic mine at Wen River.

    What we see then is how the Company fights back the Kuomintang at all costs. They have to stay and fight until they hear the bugle call for assembly. The fight scenes are glorious but overlong. Some characters start getting some identity and development. Ironically, almost all of them are immediately killed which makes these script attempts useless and the story odd. When some soldiers pretend to have heard the bugle call and others don't, Gu Zidi who has become partially deaf during battle becomes desperate and orders his troop to stay. The whole situation gets tense when a third wave of attacks comes in but the promising scenes are suddenly cut in the oddest way.

    We are thrown a few months or years into the future. The movie fails to tell us what exactly happened and where we are. The viewers only realize that Gu Zidi is the only survivor of the Company but nobody remembers them. Treated with ignorance and struck by remorse, he decides to join the Korean War that took place from 1950 to 1953. The Chinese troops supported North Korea when South Korean and American troops invaded the northern part of the peninsula and were about to reach the Chinese frontier. We only see a few war scenes here when Gu Zidi saves the life of his platoon commander who stepped on a landmine and loses a part of his sight. 

    We are then thrown another few years into the future. Gu Zidi looks for the battlefield where his Company died. He fights for recognition of his soldiers' glorious death on duty. He is only supported by the platoon commander of the Korean War and the widow of the intellectual political officer. Ridden by despair, Gu picks up fights with the government, tries to find the bodies of the dead and seems to lose track of reality. By lucky coincidence, he meets the bugler who was supposed to call back the Ninth Company for assembly who tells him that he never did that call and that the Ninth Company was abandoned by its superiors.

    Gu Zidi can't turn the page. Even though his men are honoured posthumously, he absolutely wants to find their bodies. Many years later, excavations for an irrigation project finally uncover them. A large monument is erected and formal burial performed.

    Gu finally remembers what happened on the battlefield back in the days. His political officer and him were the only survivors after the third wave of attacks. He ordered the officer to sacrifice himself and make the mine explode so that the bodies wouldn't fall into the hands of the Kuomintang. Gu went out on one last suicidal mission and attacked a tank of the Kuomintang. Apparently, he survived somehow as he was left for dead, hid himself in the mines and put on the uniform of a Kuomintang soldier. What exactly happened is never unveiled and the movie ends there.

    After all, the film has too many cuts. Only historical experts might be able to follow it properly. What starts as a gripping but one- dimensional war movie ends up being a dull personal drama. This mixture of genres isn't balanced very well. The story is sometimes hard to follow. Too many details remain obscure.

    The elements that save this movie are the special effects, the cinematography, the soundtrack and the solid acting, especially by main actor Zhang Hanyu.

    On a positive side note, this movie has no propaganda tendencies like similar films. It doesn't tell if the Communists or the Kuomintang are better or who is good or evil in the Korean War. It only tells us the tale of a desperate captain who wants to discover the truth about his soldiers. At some points, the movie even criticizes the Chinese Communist government who doesn't help the broken man and employs an ignorant attitude.

     

    This war movie has a few strengths but almost as many flaws. Only cinematic war maniacs and history experts may be rewarded. Anyone else may find this hard to sit through despite a glorious main actor. There also exists a second "Assembly" movie that doesn't relate to this one.

     

    « Donpheebin - Collision (1997) (8,5/10)Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a / I'm A Cyborg But That's OK (2006) - A courageous, philosophic and positive movie about the sense of life - 8/10 (04/09/13) »
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