Cliff Walkers Review: Director Zhang Yimou Returns to Form with Sophisticated Spy Thriller
Chinese author Zhang Yimou (Hero, The House of Flying Daggers) delves into the spy genre with an exquisitely filmed snowy and black thriller. Cliff walkers is an era story of espionage and betrayal set in North China in the 1930s under Japanese rule. The film is thickly drawn with Hitchcockian twists of character. The elaborate narrative gets muddy at times. But it holds their attention with raw violence, intriguing revelations, and brilliant technical acumen. Cliff walkers It is a sophisticated cinema from an expert filmmaker.
In the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, four communist spies parachute into a winter forest on a top-secret mission. Zhang (Zhang Yi), Yu (Qin Hailu), Lan (Liu Haocun) and Chuliang (Zhu Yawen) have trained for months in Soviet Russia. They are extremely skilled, but their arrival is not unexpected. The murderous Section Chief Gao (Ni Dahong) and his methodical henchman Chou (Yu Hewei) have been alerted to their presence by a traitor.
The agents decide to divide into two teams to reach the city of Harbin. Zhang and Lan soon realize that they have been betrayed. They must warn the others, but Gao’s thugs are on their trail. As Chou hunts them down and tries to discover their ultimate goal, each spy keeps a much-loved secret. But the mission is paramount and must be accomplished at all costs.
Cliff walkers it has a complex story that is told in seven chapters. I rarely take notes while watching a movie, but decided to do it minutes after the first act. This is by no means a criticism, just an acknowledgment of the precise details of the plot. A host of characters betray each other during the tense two-hour runtime. Not to mention, the movie is Chinese with English subtitles and lots of dialogue. Cliff walkers It will require a greater degree of focus for Western audiences, but the effort is worth it. A surprising turn of events caught me completely off guard.
Zhang Yimou’s art as a director remains sublime. Cliff walkers it is beautiful to see. The cinematography, production design, and editing are excellent. The entire film is bathed in white snow, but toned down with dark colors for an atmospheric effect. This is particularly well done in various highly stylized chase scenes. The film harks back to the black crime sensibilities of the 1940s and 1950s. Cliff walkers it has a sense of dread that pervades everything. Zhang never lets you forget what is at stake for the characters. They are fighting for their country and their lives destroyed by ruthless oppression.
Cliff walkers it is a nationalist story that embraces the Chinese Communist Revolution. It also realistically describes the atrocities committed by the de facto Japanese government at the time. Regardless of your political or historical views, this movie works like a spy thriller and can be artistically appreciated as such. Zhang Yimou returns to form with a capable cast. Cliff walkers previously it was titled Deadpoint. It is a production of Emperor Motion Pictures, China Film Co. Ltd., Shanghai Film Group, and Hua Xia Film. Cliff walkers It will be released in theaters in the United States and China on April 30 by CMC Pictures.
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