Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cliff Walkers / 悬崖之上 - Movie Review

The Movie: Cliff Walkers悬崖之上

The Director: Zhang Yimou

The Cast: Zhang Yi, Yu Hewei, Qin Hailu, Liu Haocun, Zhu Yawen, Li Naiwen, Ni Dahong

The Story: In the puppet state of Manchukuo in the 1930s, four Communist party special agents, after returning to China, embark on a secret mission. Sold out by a traitor, the team find themselves surrounded by threats on all sides.

The Review:
Director Zhang Yimou has been responsible for some of the most boldly epic movies to come out over the last few decades including Hero and House of Flying Daggers just to name a couple. He is known for his large scale and colorful cinematic experiences and, even when he tones it down, his films are still visually slick and uniquely stylized. Shadow is an example of when his of use of color, or in this case lack of color can be just as striking and the story can be as enthralling as anything else you might see.

One thing I will say about the director, and this is very true in the case of this latest effort, is that you have to pay attention to every detail and really invest in every character to be able to properly follow them without getting lost or confused. This being a dark and deliberately paced spy thriller amplifies this even more and I actually felt that it lacked the ability to keep me fully engaged. Not sure if it's because the characters were all pretty generic or if the plodding story just isn't that interesting, or maybe both.

There are moments in the movie that are very smart and really entertaining, there's just too much filler and exposition in between those moments to make the whole thing worth watching. Unfortunately, this was also a waste of some beautiful cinematography and I absolutely loved all of the snow landscapes whether it was within nighttime city streets or out in the wide open forest spaces. I just wish the story had been equal to the task.

The Verdict:
Cliff Walkers falls short of expectations with a blustery and meandering story that isn't nearly as engaging as the beautiful imagery it's built upon.

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