Home Entertainment The Battle at Lake Changjin review – China’s rabble-rousing propaganda war epic

The Battle at Lake Changjin review – China’s rabble-rousing propaganda war epic

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China’s costliest movie so far and its second highest ever box-office grosser, The Battle at Lake Changjin possesses worryingly belligerent overtones. An account of a pivotal battle in November 1950 during the Korean war by which Chinese language forces, who had infiltrated the nation, pushed US marines again over the thirty eighth parallel, this government-ordained challenge wastes no alternative – present geopolitical tensions however – to claim the ethical superiority of the Chinese language soldier. Not solely is he unfazed by superior opposition numbers and gear or impossibly harsh local weather circumstances, even the enemy catering doesn’t get him down. We see Uncle Sam chowing down on a bounty of turkey legs and bacon whereas the Individuals’s Volunteer Military break their tooth on stony potatoes.

The movie additionally applies its collectivist we-all-suffer-together message, customary for current Chinese language blockbusters, to its personal making; it shares directorial credit score between “fifth generation” main mild Chen Kaige of Farewell My Concubine renown, and Hong Kong veterans Tsui Hark and Dante Lam. At the very least the involvement of the latter two means The Battle at Lake Changjin is an replace on stodgy current communist get together cinema epics and presumably the explanation for its box-office success. There may be achieved motion film-making on present right here, from a turkey shoot by US scout planes throughout a scree discipline by which the digicam careens between the stricken Chinese language troops (Lam’s, if I needed to guess); to a rowdy hand-to-hand battle inside an American encampment that, with all people making an attempt to shoot and stab one another, comes over like a homicidal sport of Tornado (most likely Tsui’s).

It’s a disgrace there may be just about no story to stitch this ungainly patchwork of kinds collectively, aside from some threadbare twaddle about seventh Firm commander Quanli (Wolf Warrior’s Wu Jing) and his wannabe soldier brother Wanli (Jackson Yee), as a stowaway who largely exists for his comrades to impart self-sacrificing knowledge.

This movie is traditionally extremely debatable, however any comparisons to equally blinkered and jingoistic American rabble-rousers corresponding to Rambo usually are not correct; The Battle at Lake Changjin is basically a authorities challenge. It’s attainable to make attention-grabbing cinema inside the Chinese language censorship system that also bears a communist message, corresponding to 2015’s Wolf Totem. However right here, there’s nothing to censor; it’s straight-up propaganda – virtually comedically so at instances. Early on, an irate Wanli sweeps open a prepare carriage door to flee, solely to be stopped in his tracks … by a rolling vista of the Nice Wall! Chinese language business cinema is learning Hollywood’s tricks for cloaking ideology with leisure, however in some ways it’s nonetheless trapped up to now.

The Battle at Lake Changjin is launched on 19 November in UK cinemas.

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