An American man returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. While he unravels the mysteries of the death, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret that his own government is hiding.
An American man returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. While he unravels the mysteries of the death, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret that his own government is hiding. less
A WWII setting. And instead of being set in the States, Britain, Germany or Russia, we get a comparatively 'different' location - Shanghai. This movie brings together espionage, adultery and romance together.
However, the story does not have great guns or stylish rides. This one is actually realistic - where spies sometimes do get beaten up and die, unlike James Bond.
Shanghai is set in 1941, when China is reeling under a Japanese invasion, with this city still standing tall. However, ripe for the taking, Shanghai has its own share of the Japanese military, and hosts the Resistance, a group of Chinese men and women who regularly try to foil operations and kill high-standing Jap officers. Enter Paul Soames (John Cusack), an American agent who is here to meet his friend Conner (Jeffrey Morgan), who is unfortunately murdered. Soames, trying to solve the case, meets and befriends The Lan-Tings, Anna(Gong Li) and Anthony(Chow Yun-Fat) who seem to be sympathetic to the Japanese cause. Anna is unusually distant from her husband, and Paul develops a liking for her. His nemesis is Captain Tanaka (Ken Watanabe), a ruthless Japanese captain, who is somehow linked to Conner's death, and is hot on Paul's heels wherever he goes. Slowly, as the murder is resolved, Paul discovers untold secrets, and is soon fighting for survival.
Although having all elements of a typical potboiler - spies, mystery, and a historical setting, this movie is remarkedly restrained, both in terms of performances and screenplay. The writer (Hossein Amini - previously known for Jude) relies more on dialogues and interactions between the lead actors than on action. As a result, this movie offers more in terms of performances, making it less likely to be lapped up by action afficionados.
The movie has an authentic old-world feel (Apparently Chinese officials took away shooting permits owing to the controversial time period of the film, which was later shot on an elaborate 2-block set created in Bangkok) with vintage cars and medieval architecture, which pan out well and recreate an ambient setting. The international starcast - apart from John Cusack, all other actors are Chinese - is eminently watchable. However, for people like me, who prefer a little spice on their platter rather than variety, the film is a disappointment. The tension buildup is not intense too (Valkyrie was a benchmark). Still, it might turn out to be the best bet this weekend !