Great movie, one that will stay with you for a long time.
Set in the tail end of Imperial China, the movie revolves around a small incident in history — Sun Yat-sen‘s trip to Hong Kong to discuss details of revolution against the Qing Dynasty. Due to the political sensitivity of the visit, revolutionary activists are called upon to protect Sun against assassins sent out by Empress Dowager Cixi.
Though situated at a time of political upheaval, the movie isn’t one that praises the revolutionary effort ad nauseam. It tells the story of ordinary people — the unsung heroes, whose involvement are driven by feelings more basic than superfluous visions of grandeur.
The story, when isolated by itself, is nothing but a trivial episode in the larger political movement. But it was delivered with so much force and so much emotion, that the insignificant became pregnant.
You learn a piece or two about each character, some are funny, some are sad; some are heartwarming, some are wistful. Although brief, these moments are compacted and well written so that you find yourself slowly cultivating a love for these people. You love them for their simplicity, their loyalty, and even, their stubbornness. Therefore, even thought you’ve braced yourself for the danger looming ahead, you still feel that tense tug each time a hero falls.
There are so many things I love about this movie that it would take a long post to describe them all. For the sake of brevity, I will only list a few.
First, I love that the heroes’ deaths are not glorified but dealt, instead, in an understated manner (i.e. a line on screen that states the person’s name, origin, and date of death). This combination of still frame and obituary memorializes the moment in a quiet yet profound way — despite their heroism, all they get is a line in history to prove that they existed. So the question is, is it worth it?
As I’ve noted earlier that this incident is incredibly picayune when assessed at a macro level. However, with such small scale of an operation, came such big of a loss. The contrast is stunning and opens floor for questions: What is revolution? Is revolution worth the price? If these questions are too intangible, let’s transform the same concerns to issues more pertinent. Like, should change be implemented? Will the ends justify the means? A good movie always makes you pause to think and this one does just that.
Good movies are often daunting to watch because sometimes, you’re just tired and want something lightweight. But visual aesthetics is something everyone can appreciate. This movie is no exception. It may not be wow-inducing at first but the authenticity of the set and the wonderful blend of music sure add to the positive watching experience.
Let’s not forget the visual motifs and symbolisms that intermingle with the on-going story from time to time.