By: The Arty Dans
I’ve been watching war movies for years. But always American ones.
I am used to Americans being the good guys. I’m used to watching movies about American heroics in all wars. They controlled the pop culture, they controlled the conversations.
But now Chinese cinema is big. The second biggest market in the world. And it only makes sense that eventually the Chinese would make a war movie about their heroics, and paint the Americans as the bad guys.
It’s circumventing what I know, and I am not sure how I feel about it.
What’s this Movie About?
Set in 1953, The Sacrifice tells the tale the of a group of Chinese volunteers and army members defence of a bridge in North Korea. The bridge crosses, and I am going to say this wrong, the Kongchuan river where the Chinese were trying to get their soldiers across from one side to the other.
The Americans had a different idea. They keep bombing the bridge, trying to destroy it. The Chinese, to the American’s frustration, keep repairing it.
This movie tells the story of the successful night the army crosses the bridge. The movie tells this story from three perspectives. The men who monitor attacks on the bridge while the engineers repair it, the men who defend the bridge with their AA guns and the American pilot who takes the whole thing personally, constantly trying to destroy the bridge.
This results in the same events being repeated three times, much like the American movie Dunkirk, which I haven’t seen, so I can’t comment on.
Is it Worth Watching?
Two very different points of view for this movie.
If you like war movies based on real events, then sure watch this. But be forewarned that this is a dramatization. It’s an amazing story and it’s an interesting movie.
However, as expected there are elements of propaganda in this film. But that all occurs towards the end with a scene of very poor CGI and some file footage of a government ceremony from 2020 acknowledging the event.
So watch this for the action, watch this knowing that an event like this occurred. But try not to take anything too personal with the themes of this movie.
For those out there watching this who think that the Chinese citizens would eat up a movie like this, its worth noting that the biggest movie review website in China has this movie sitting at 6.5 out of 10 from a total of 183,000 user scores. The Chinese citizens aren’t exactly buying everything this movie is selling, so you don’t need to either.
What are Some of the Memorable Moments?
If you know Chinese cinema, then you will recognise the excellent cast and directors for this movie.
The versatile Zhang Yi and action superstar Wu Jing are the main headlines. They’re roles are terrific and add some welcome comic relief to the movie. They play the two AA gunners: Zhang Yi as the conversative gunner while Wu Jing as the reckless one, the Wolf Warrior so to speak. Their interactions are terrific, with a real sense of brotherhood between them.
Supporting them is Zhang Yi’s fellow The Eight Hundred cast members Li Jiuxiao and Vision Wei. There are a few more cast members from the Eight Hundred and that’s to do with director Guan Hu, one of the three men responsible for this.
The real standout in the acting department is Deng Chao. You might recognise him from Zhang Yimou’s Shadow. Deng’s character is terrific and there is a very funny scene involving his accent and how other soldier misunderstand him.
As mentioned, there are three directors for The Sacrifice, with Frant Gwo from 2019’s megahit The Wandering Earth and Lu Yang, who has an exciting sci-fi action movie coming out in 2021 called Assassin In Red.
Notice how I never mentioned anything about the story?
What’s Not So Hot?
The story though, is a bit of a chore.
I get the idea of repeating the incident three times. It gives the audience more time to focus on the three individual stories that the movie wants to tell.
But I am sure I am not the only one who didn’t care about the American pilot. Poor acting, an awkward script and the deliberating painting of the pilot as a true cartoon-style villain just didn’t fit the tone of the movie. I’ll give the movie points for not making the pilot just some anonymous cowboy, but did he have to be so cartoonish?
A big issue I have with Chinese movies, especially movies that deal with their armed forces, is the violence. I get it, war isn’t pretty. But do I really need to see the exploding body of a soldier three times in all its gory glory?
It’s worth mentioning, China is the biggest movie market in the world that does not have an age rating for movies. Movies are either approved or banned. And once they are approved, they’re approved for all ages. I don’t see any value in a child watching this film. My guess is if this every got a release in my home of Australia, this would come with an 18 rating.
This movie was completed in 3 months. That’s an incredible feat for a movie like this. It started pre-production in August 2020 and was released October 25. For that alone, the effort in itself was phenomenal.
But that doesn’t make this a must watch.
My decision on if you should watch this: this is a really tough movie to recommend, so I am not going to. Its worth a watch if you want to see a different perspective, but not for the general viewer.
If you’ve seen it, what did you think?