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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars omigosh!
The first half of this movie is Zulu meets Saving Private Ryan but with even more over the top pyrotechnics and the sort of stunt choreography you'd get in a Chinese Kung Fu epic, though nowhere near as fantastical. There's something about it that takes me back to the war movies from the 60s and 70s like The Big Red One or Cross of Iron. The film is set against the...
Published on 24 April 2008 by Clever Spud

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good intention, poor execution
I'm a big fan of war films, and in my opinion I've been exposed to some of the best old(The Killing Fields, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, etc..) and more recent films, notably Clint Eastwood's duo 'Letters from Iwo Jima', and 'Flags of our Fathers' which are really worth a watch for those who haven't seen them yet.

I was hoping this film would be like the...
Published on 24 April 2008 by L. Otto


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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars omigosh!, 24 April 2008
By 
Clever Spud (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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The first half of this movie is Zulu meets Saving Private Ryan but with even more over the top pyrotechnics and the sort of stunt choreography you'd get in a Chinese Kung Fu epic, though nowhere near as fantastical. There's something about it that takes me back to the war movies from the 60s and 70s like The Big Red One or Cross of Iron. The film is set against the background of the Chinese civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party, whose side our protaganists are on. Unsurprisingly the politics of the situation isn't really explored at all. You're not really left with the impression of good guys and bad guys, just two different sides who're killing each other however they can.

Half an hour in I thought I had the measure of this movie and was settling in for, and cheering on, two hours of gory mindless violence. Then at the halfway mark it turned into a very different type of film.

I was a little surprised by the second half but suffice to say that the last few moments of the film, while not exactly reducing me to tears, were very effective and did a good job of capping off what I thought was an extremely enjoyable film. In fact one of the better films I've seen in the last few months.

Cons for what is a quite dramatic change of pace, some slightly clichéd translation and subtitles that aren't always clear against the action on screen - though the only alternative to that is the ugly box background for the text and that would be even worse. There are also some plot "conveniences" but nothing that made me throw my popcorn at the TV.

Recommended for war movie fans everywhere but sensitive souls should note it's pretty gory but nothing as harrowing as you'd get in a modern Hollywood horror movie (torture porn). Special mentions for the Chinese scenery, as usual, which can really take your breath away.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry - be patient with this film, 26 Sep 2008
By 
Sanjay (Leicester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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I'm not going to go over the plot of this movie again, it's been reviewed in much detail already. But I was surprised & slightly affected by this movie.

The first half portrays some graphic action sequences; similar to something you've likely seen in Band of Brothers perhaps. Battle sequences are well orchestrated and very cinematic, however, maybe a little less polished than their American equivalents (likely filmed with a tenth the budget).

About half-way through the movie, the tone & pace totally change. It took me a while what this portion of the movie was actually about...... but stick with it and by the ending, you'll consider this portion of the film pure poetry.

This film isn't about the act of war, it's not about the main character finding his lost brothers. This movie is about how an old veteran copes with the fact that his brothers haven't been laid to rest; they are declared just "missing". A beautiful performance by the main actor really portrays his psychological strains and feelings.

The scenery and the way the war(s) were shown from the Chinese side was very interesting... especially Korea. Of course, the scenery and direction was amazing throughout. Sure there are a few convenient plot moments, but it's not about how they were found, just that they were, and his reaction to it.

All-in-all a HIGHLY recommended watch. Just don't expect a combination of Platoon and CSI.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Private Ryan goes to China?, 2 May 2008
By 
Mr. Stephen Kennedy "skenn1701a" (Doha, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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A movie in two halves, this Chinese film does a nifty job of both emulating the style that made Ryan such a hit, and providing enough of a soul to go along with it to be interesting on its own merit.
Based on a novel, which itself was based on a true story, the movie is set in the late 40's during the Chinese Civil War and goes on into the following decade. The first half sees the Captain ordered with his company into a desolate war zone in 1948, to hold and fight to the last man until he hears the bugle cry of assembly. It never comes... scenes of carnage in greyed out colours in very shaky camerawork (as patented my Spielberg) ensue... all fairly effectively done. However, it is in the second half, that the film finds its heart.. The Captain, now scarred both physically and emotionally, realizes his company are listed as missing, affording them no honour, and so he makes it his goal to find proof of their story and restore their name.
It is surprising to see a movie like this, after a decade or more of brightly coloured highly choreographed wushu epics made China more of an international movie force.. this is quite the opposite, with its realism, grim tone and very human heart. In taking so many cues from Western films like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, there is perhaps an element of disappointment in what at first seems a lack of originality. In fact, during some of the battle scenes the shaky camera work just seems a fraction too much, as if they have not quite developed the skill set yet. The script and the music both feel almost self consciously Western in origin. In addition, while the journey in the latter half to redemption is effective, the time and location shifts are clunky in places and serve to distract rather than build development of the story.
Having said that, this is a uniquely Chinese story, during a period of history that is close to Chinese hearts, and why not tell it? The latter half, the all important journey to redemption, is handled deftly, and the end result should move even the toughest hearts just a little, with themes of honour, loyalty and brotherhood unhindered by jingoism or propaganda.
A recommended watch then, and yet more signs that China is showing no end to its high quality movie output.
Extras include around an hour of in depth analysis of all aspects of the moviemaking, from story through cast to details such as effects and costumes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A touching story about one man's quest to ensure his fallen comrades are remembered., 21 April 2008
By 
Ian Tapley "thefragrantwookiee" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Set during the Chinese Civil War, this film follows Captain Gu Zidi of the Communist army. After ordering the execution of POWs in a fit of rage, Gu and his 46 men are disgraced and, as pennance, are sent to hold a remote forward post against overwhelming odds.

The battle scenes are every bit as exciting, horrific and visceral as anything you'll see in 'Saving Private Ryan' or the like. And, even though some of the characterisations are a little cliched (particularly the coward who finds his courage defending his comrades), it won't take you long to become attached to Gu and his men.

The latter half of the film focuses purely on Gu Zidi, the sole survivor of the battle. Held as a POW by his own forces due to having stolen an enemy uniform, Gu is horrified to learn that a bureaucratic reorganisation means that his original orders have been lost and his men have been dubbed missing in action, with suspicion of desertion falling on them.

Gu makes it his life's work to see that his fallen brothers are remembered as heroes, even when this means shovelling through a mountain of coal, which has since been dumped on the battlefield, in the hopes of finding their bodies.

When I began watching this film, I was wondering how I would take to the idea of Communist heroes (being born in the latter part of the Cold War meant that the Communists entered by psyche as 'the bad guys'). However, you soon see that this film isn't about Communist soldiers, per se. It's about every soldier who ever fought in any war. It's about the everyman and how, regardless of who they fought for, they should be remembered with respect and honour.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Assembly - Follow Captain Gu Zidi with valour and human spirit, 20 April 2008
By 
68Dastardly (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Not to base this review on a football analogy, but it is a move of say `two halves'. Initially Captain Gu Zidi and his forces show bravery, that they are tough soldiers in demanding situations like `a 300 style full on battle', closer to the battle and fighting with heart and spirit. The Cinematography and Direction bring the action so close to you; you could think you are in the streets and the trenches.

Follow Captain Gu Zidi after the his 1948 battle into a post warfare environment where we experience his personal burden of 1948 events and his burning desire for recognition for his fallen colleagues.

His 47 men of the 9th Company, 3rd Battalion, 139th Regiment that remain after the opening bloody street battles find themselves in the trenches where they are the best at trench warfare but lack manpower, ammunition and heavy weaponry restoring instead to improvised weaponry and innovation on the battle field whist greatly outnumbered.

A full onslaught from the enemy again shows the truth in this film making, not 1000 bullets flying around and everyone still alive, Hollywood style. Here the bullets are real and have grave consequences for Captain Gu Zidi's forces; death and people being `destroyed' by explosions; its war, but will they hear the Assembly bugle call to call retreat and save them?

Post war Captain Gu Zidi continues to show real humanity and a life absorbing desire to find those of his fallen regiment and ensure they are not unrecognised in history, whilst he faces personal scrutiny of battle events from a number of sources.

This is more than a war movie, a course of live movie of a military captain full of valour and human spirit.

Look out for the information that pops up throughout and at the end of the movie giving factual explanations for events and outcomes. The movie is subtitle but this does detract from its enjoyment as the subtitles are not fast and furious.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Chinese civil war film, 20 April 2008
By 
James Cameron "Artist / Filmmaker / Nerd" (a world of my own) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Assembly does a wonderful job of showing just how brutal and desperate the Chinese civil war was. Although the issue of how & why the war happened is left out (they don't like to admit those details) it shows the state of the Chinese people and the horrors of the war that led to the communist takeover. This is hardcore a modern war film, with a lot of bloody and very violent action sequences - but lets face it, if your trying to show how horrible war is you can't do it any other way.

The only thing that may put off average war film fans would be the subtitles, although the story is very limited there are some good character movements that require you to read the subs, so this movie is worth 2 viewings - once for the story, and once for the awesome production details.

A good rental if nothing else.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does exactly what it says on the box..., 3 Jan 2009
By 
Robbie Swale - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Assembly delivers on everything it promises on the cover and in the trailer. It is a fierce and brutal war story, and it is the story of a man looking for answers about the men he led into battle. It follows Captain Gu Zidi, first in the Chinese Civil War, then to Korea and onwards, and does so in a style reminiscent of a number of modern war films and television programmes. In particular, the classical score brings my recent re-watching of Band of Brothers to mind.

The film itself is long (closer to three hours than two) but it doesn't drag. The first hour or so is rip-roaring and action packed, and after that the film splits its time between more action and interspersed scenes following Captain Gu's life between his wars. The plot is not over-complicated, not over simple. I found that my complete lack of knowledge about the Chinese Civil War hampered me - but a quick glance over the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page will be more than enough for you to be able to keep up. Some of the dialogue (or rather subtitling) is a little cliched, but overall the film has an authentic and gritty feel, and will make you think - as all good war films should - about how depressing and difficult war is.

Despite this, however, I can't help but think that this film didn't quite deliver to me what it should have. I should have been overcome by emotion at the film's climax, and this should have been because my emotions were tied heavily to Gu and his story. It is difficult to fault the film - apart from the odd piece of script - the photography is excellent, the budget is obviously big. I wonder the story-telling wasn't quite good enough then, or the acting, but it is difficult to tell. Either way, I found this film to be lacking an intangible something, and that is why I drop it a star. Four it definitely deserves, and I wouldn't tell anyone not to watch this...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film... Great Story... Great Man., 29 May 2008
By 
Nolene-Patricia Dougan "Dougs" (Ravara, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Their orders were to fight until the bugle sounded the assembly call to retreat. But this bugle call was never heard...

Captain Guzidi's greatest curse seems to have been to survive. He witnesses his whole battalion killed and then risks almost certain death to save the life off his commander. And yet, despite incredible odds he survives. It is only after the war is over that he realises his purpose. He must honour his fallen comrades by letting the world know of their sacrifice, and he will fight to have them declared war heroes even if it takes a lifetime to do it.

Assembly is at times very reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan. Assembly's battle scenes are gritty and chaotic and, like Saving Private Ryan, they are utterly compelling. However, unlike Spielberg's war movie, at no time does Assembly descend into clichéd sentimentality. Even after the battles have finished this film still keeps up the pace by telling the intriguing story of Guzidi's moral victory. This film is a treat for those who appreciate war films with wonderfully layered characterization and thrilling back stories.

I have to admit, I couldn't find much accurate historical information on the people portrayed in this film, or on the book that the movie is based on - Guan Si. However, even if only a few of the events shown on screen are fact, this is a story about heroes and the sacrifices they make for what they believe in.

In short, this movie shows its audience a realistic and compelling depiction of the 139th Battalion's heroic sacrifice and the story of one man's determination to get this sacrifice acknowledged. Assembly is a truly poignant war film and should be glorious addition to anyone's DVD collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The battle sequences initially lost my wife's interest - but a good and quite moving, if rather gory, film overall, 17 May 2008
By 
Keith_Joseph (West Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Often foreign subtitled films capture the day to day life of other cultures that can be fascinating, for either being now lost in time, i.e. fantastic 1950s films like '400 blows' or Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), or simply about a place today that has a markedly different society, e.g. a few days in the life of a young Zulu lad or a woman in Iran. However the first half of this film Assembly is more about the violence of war, sadly familiar territory for all Earth's cultures and since the 1900's all fought with the same western weapons - so in that respect Assembly can come across as `Enemy at the gates' and `Apocalypse Now's inferior cousin.

To be honest my wife didn't really follow what was going on in the initial war action sequences of Assembly and slumped into a coma long before the second part of the movie (which she subsequently enjoyed far more). Assembly is a film of two halves. In the first half, we see a battle between the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists just after second world war [1948]. Naturally given who eventually won, this film is about the communist fighters: largely Captain Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) and his 47 men of the 9th Company, 3rd Batallion, 139th Regiment. They get left behind fighting a rearguard action to protect the retreating communist main army. Like many at Dunkirk, they await the final bugle call to tell them they can also withdraw (The Assembly) - but tragically it never comes or is simply missed during the heat of battle. The rest of their army assume that they must be dead, or worse that they must have betrayed their comrades and deserted their posts. The battle sequences have 'Private Ryans' gore and realism, although here we follow the losing side as the 9th company are outgunned, outnumbered and simply can't survive (not everyone has Michael Caine's luck in Zulu). Their plight, trapped in their trenches with dwindling and inferior resources, but with a determined resolve to fight to the end, is quite well told.

The second half of the movie involves Captain Gu Zidi's fight after the battle to get his men's heroism recognised and their names cleared from the stigma of desertion and cowardice (no Victoria Crosses here, his men were naturally annihilated, with just Captain Gu Zidi left alive to tell their tale - and he was a convicted war criminal before the battle). This is all held together by Zhang Hanyu's [Captain Gu Zidi] excellent pivotal performance. This second half becomes far more intimate as Captian Gu Zidi fights the system for recognition for his men's bravery [that, although a minor, even insignificant, part in the war, he still feels passionately that it deserves some official recognition]. Naturally most others would prefer to try and forget about the war and rebuild their lives. So the first half of this movie follows the modern fashion for realistic gory war (e.g. Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the gates, Flags of our fathers and Iowa Jima) while the second half is more David Jason's 'All the Kings Men' [uncovering the mystery of what happened to the 'Sandringham Company', who all, but their commanding officer, were lost in action during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915].

It does mean war action buffs might find the last half of the film a bit slow, but the quality of the film will probably keep them watching. Rather like 'The last emperor' though it's not really a jolly experience, but then war is about comradeship, honour, humanity and compassion even, and not really about having fun [or as Leonard Cohen aptly put it: 'The things that make a soldier sad, will make a killer smile']. Plus this is a story about real people and events. Although this movie lacks the shear power and originality of the B&W anti-war films 'Paths to Glory' and 'All quiet on the Western front' or the later 'Apocalypse Now' and `Full metal jacket', I felt viewing 'Assembly' was a rewarding experience, as it's well made and the story is well told. Parts of the film are quite moving, and I would recommend it. Assembly is an ideal to rent, or perhaps to buy if you are a collector of war films.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honor the death heroes, 11 May 2008
By 
K. Li - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
Perhaps this is the first Chinese war movie shown on the western cinema, although there were over hundreds has been made over the last fifty years. If you know a bit of Chinese history especially through the last one hundred years also -- The end of the corrupt old kingdom - civil war one after an others - Japanese invasion - civil war (part of the bloody one shown in this movie) - birth of the People's Republic - Korean War.... Then you may understand why the Chinese communist force is so struggling to fright to the last man for their victory.

An excellent story about honor, loyalty and brotherhood without the usual communist style propaganda. Highly recommend and look forward to seeing more from Chinese Cinema.
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Assembly [DVD]
Assembly [DVD] by Feng Xiagang (DVD - 2008)
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