REVIEW: DVD Release: Axis Of War: My Long March

Film: Axis Of War: My Long March
Release date: 24th May 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 96 mins
Director: Zhai Junjie, Yang Jun
Starring: Zhong Qiu, Wang Ying, Wang Jia, Wang Xingang
Genre: War/Action/Drama
Studio: Metrodome
Format: DVD
Country: China

My Long March is the second instalment in the Axis Of War trilogy and takes place in China between 1934 and 1935. It is a tale of honour and endurance against the odds and self sacrifice, focusing on the up-rise of the Red Army lead by its charismatic controversial leader Chairman Mao Zedong (also known as Mao Tse-tung), and a military achievement that would claim the lives of thousands and ultimately change the country forever.

After his father is killed during a bombing raid by the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), 16 year-old Rui Tazi Wang enlists with the revolutionary battalion CCP (Chinese Communist Party), known as the Red Army, under the command of Mao Zedong to fight against them. They set off on a 6,000 mile march that lasted for one year and resulted in the extermination of over 50,000 Red Army soldiers.

During the year long nightmarish bloodshed, Rui’s life is changed forever as he witnesses the deaths of many of his loved ones, including his sister and brother in-law. But rather than let his grief discourage him from the mission, he vows to continue on with the fight, and honour those who selflessly gave up their lives for a brighter new unified China…

My Long March is a very biased film; it could even be described as propaganda in its attempt to justify the loss of thousands of lives. Mao is portrayed as an extremely compassionate man with very little, if any, flaws. The film even tries to make an excuse for him as he orders his wife to leave their new born child with local villagers by having him proclaim, “She was born at the wrong time.” Rui’s relationship with Mao is also somewhat far-fetched. Having Mao portrayed as a kind of father figure to Rui is stretching the imagination a little too far and shows him in an unrealistic light.

The film fails to explain the purpose of the war and who exactly the Red Army are fighting against. In fact, we rarely get to see the opposing side, except for the over-head attacks of fighter planes and the devastation they cause, making them appear faceless. Unless you are familiar with the history of the Red Army, and the civil war that took place in China at that time, you will undoubtedly be somewhat confused by this film. It’s never actually made clear why the communist movement was becoming a threat to the Nationalist Party, or why a large majority of the peasants from rural areas were being recruited by the Red Army. The poor script doesn’t help either; it’s thin and weak and one-sided. Quite frankly there’s as much meat to it as there is on a chicken wing.

Although the music score, composed by Zang Qianyi, is beautiful in itself, it is overused in parts, and gives the film way too much sentimentality – like there isn’t enough of that in there already. A mountain song performed by Rui’s sister in the hope of winning the confidence of the indigenous Yi people is absurd, especially since, in reality, it was a Red Army General, who could speak the Yi language, and a few of his men that won the Yi’s trust – and not by wooing them with an engaging song either, I might add. Mind you, the tune on its own merit is rather charming, as long as one doesn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics.

On a more positive note, it succeeds in demonstrating the sheer determination and bravery of the 87,000 men and women who fought for the Communist Party at that time, and how they endured the rough terrain on the Long March to which over 50,000 lost their lives.

Visually the film is impressive, with stunning battle scenes pieced together with quick cuts and slow-motion sequences. The confrontation that takes place on the 100 yard-long Luding Bridge, which stretches over the Da Du River, is pretty spectacular. As Red Army soldiers crawl along the iron chained bridge bullets ricochet off the metal links, and yet does not discourage them from storming the fort.

My Long March is an epic film that showcases some spectacular battle sequences but overall has a tendency to make the viewer, especially Western audiences, feel ill at ease; we are made to feel empathy and have an understanding towards Mao and his army, and as a result we do. But the question is, should we? SLP

No comments:

Post a Comment