China's foremost commercial filmmaker Feng Xiaogang lives up to his name with the blockbuster war film Assembly
. Pulling in over 23 millian yuan at the domestic box office, Assembly
outgunned even The Warlords
which was screening concurrently. After years of satirical comedies, Feng's films have gotten progressively bigger in recent years, starting with 2004's A World Without Thieves
to 2006's star-studded period piece The Banquet
. Based on a novel by Yang Jinyuan, Assembly
continues this trend in scale and production, but where The Banquet
is glossy, Assembly
is gritty, pulling in audiences not with star power, but the magnitude of the war experience. Assembly
's realistic battle scenes and brilliant camerawork have earned the film comparisons to Saving Private Ryan
, but equally powerful is the human drama that follows the war.
Assembly opens on the battlefield in 1948 during China's Civil War. The Ninth Company of the People's Liberation Army led by brash Captain Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) are sent out to defend a mine from the advancing Kuomintang troops. Given an essentially impossible task, the vastly outnumbered Ninth Company are ordered to hold their positions until they hear the bugle assembly call. But that call never comes, or at least not to the injured ears of Gu, as casualties pile and hope runs dry. Of the 48 members of the Ninth Company, Gu alone survives the devastating defeat, only to find that he has become a forgotten man, written off as missing in action, just like his fallen comrades. Drifting from regiment to regiment, war to war, Gu struggles to keep alive the legacy of the Ninth Company.
Zhang Hanyu from A World Without Thieves gives a commanding performance as a military man whose battle scars follow him on his long, restless search for honor and closure. The faces who make up the Ninth Company include popular Mainland stars Deng Chao and Ren Quan, Blind Shaft lead Wang Baoqiang, and television actor Yuan Wenkang, who gives a notable performance as a timid political officer thrown into war. Acclaimed actor Hu Jun (Lan Yu, Infernal Affairs II) also makes a cameo appearance in Assembly.