Shanghai a.k.a. Die Hai Fengyun
Positives:All-star cast. Fabulous sets.
Negatives:Unfortunately, Shanghai never really peaks.
This one had the potential to amaze, sadly it barely manages to be memorable.
NOT THE SHANGHAI THAT I WAS HOPING FOR
”Every good spy needs a cover…” says John Cusack‘s character over a blank screen. That’s the first line of the movie and I get goosebumps. Then he gets cracked in the mouth by one of Ken Watanabe‘s henchman. Welcome to 2010′s “Shanghai” directed by Mikael Hafstrom.
Following the murder of a close friend and fellow operative ( Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who dies very early on so don’t worry this isn’t a spoiler ), Paul Soames ( John Cusack ) decides to once again take on the identity of a pro-Nazi journalist in order to infiltrate the ranks of those responsible. It plays out like a detective/thriller type movie set in the 40′s, a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbour, with our main character trying to figure out who exactly did what and why. It’s rather on the slow side, with some brief action sequences squeezed in. And when I say action sequences I mean more gun shooting than anything else. No kung-fu or karate on deck. So if you were expecting an epic final duel between Li Mu Bai and The Second To Last Samurai, well you’re out of luck.
Ken Watanabe takes on the role of Captain Tanaka, head of Japanese intelligence in Shanghai. He’s a no-nonsense military man with somewhat of a broken heart. Chow Yun Fat is Anthony Lan-Ting, boss of the Shanghai triads. Charming and charismatic, Lan-Ting is married to the beautiful Anna ( Gong Li ).
Anna likes gambling at the poker tables but there is a lot more to her character than meets the eye. Even at age 45, Gong Li still remains one of Asia’s sexiest women. Seeing her walk down those steps 8 minutes into the movie is proof enough. British actor Hugh Bonneville gives his best Colin Firth impersonation as a newspaper editor hiding his Jewish wife. David Morse, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Franka Potente round-up this fabulous all-star cast. Everyone does a good job acting-wise, but there are no real stand-out performances. Which is a bit of a shame, really.
On the plus side, the costumes and set designs are absolutely brilliant. Having paid great attention to details insured that every backdrop fit the time period perfectly. Vintage cars, old cigarettes and matches and Nazi flags and banners help complete the illusion. I also found the sound effects to be on par with those of a big production. Though there aren’t that many of them, the gunshots, explosions, etc, are spot-on. The brief and subtle music enhances the political and social tensions that were present during those times and also feels right on the money.
The production value is insane. With an estimated budget of 50,000,000$ (according to IMDB) its easy to see the quality and effort that was put into making this film. There is a lot of ”life” in each scene. By that I mean a lot of people in the backgrounds. It feels like a city. Likewise, I really enjoyed some of the dialogue. Great one-liners like: ”I like secrets, I collect them.” or ”Birth, school. Yale, war. The great American tradition.” really give John Cusack’s Paul Soames a ‘James Bond’ type feel.
“Die Hai Fengyun” is not the best, and it’s not the worst. Espionage. Politics. Romance. Chow Yun Fat. Ken Watanabe. Gong Li. John Cusack. Where did it go wrong? The film does pick up momentum in the second half but by then you might already be turned off. As for me, I enjoyed myself as much as I could given the material. As for you, I’m guessing you pretty much know in advance if you’re going to like it or not. If these actors don’t do it for you, chances are this movie won’t either.
TRAILER:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gif5xbcFd_QShanghai a.k.a. Die Hai Fengyun,