PProduced by acclaimed show peddler Tsui Hark for co-writer / director Daniel Lee, it’s the latest in a series of absurdly patriotic but enjoyable Chinese event films. It pays homage to Fang Wuzhou, a humble Mallory-worshiping mountaineer who led a successful Everest climb in May 1960, declaring that “the whole world will remember this day.”
No one really does, unfortunately. There is no doubt that this is due to the loss of the expedition’s photographic equipment during an avalanche, with the resulting lack of photographic evidence leading some members of the climbing community to have doubts. The film compounds his nightmare by bringing Fang (Wu Jing) back to base camp to learn that his beloved Ying (Zhang Ziyi) is going to study meteorology in the Soviet Union.
Encouraging his return to the top will also require some tweaking to an 80% score-based storytelling mode. Thundering trumpets announce every step Fang takes in the right direction; excitement strings signal lovey-dovey affairs. You should be able to cling to the traces of a discernible sports film arc beneath the layers of bombast.
After dramatizing the ascent of 1960, Lee’s film moves forward 15 years until Fang was offered the opportunity to return: overseeing a young team of mountaineers attempting to measure Everest in harsh conditions. unstable weather – the type of big screen mission that simultaneously banishes demons, restores pride and reclaims wandering lovers.
It is not subtle: the last words of a crew member are: âThis is our mountain; we have to reach the top. Let the world see the strength of the Chinese. Still, the excitement and pace has shamed many American blockbusters of 2019 and – until an extremely overwhelmed final act that creates surprises like spindrift – Lee balances dizzying, windswept sets with beats of satisfactory character.
Zhang turns out to be awfully decent – and the pigtails she’s forced to wear to pass for a student are a lost cause – but Wu with the sparkling eyes and benevolent smile is a rock-solid figurehead, playing Fang like a ordinary man on the inside resilient with up-front parkour skills of his day, which is probably as closely tied to a national ideal of masculinity as John Mills in Scott of the Antarctic. Hold on until the closing credits for a cameo that looks like an official seal of approval.