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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chinese 'Das Boot', 10 May 2008
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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This is a moving and serious war film that gives sufficient space to the aftermath of war and its social and personal consequences. While it doesn't flinch from the shocking, visceral power of conflict, it also explores honour, memory, loyalty and remembrance.

This is also an important film as it gives voice to an unknown (in the West) aspect of 20th century conflict. The first half of the film is set in the late 1940s, during the bitter Civil war in China. The materiel of the Nationalists suggest their US support, but the film is generally free of any leaden polemical stance. Later scenes are set in the Korean war, which has always been a neglected conflict, and where the Chinese perspective has been singularly lacking. I was relieved that the brief depiction of US forces was restrained and impartial.

There is something of a slightly hagiographic approach to the 'glorious' Chinese People's Army (film about Tianenmen Square perhaps?) but no more so than to the US military in most Hollywood films. In the end, the film is about the scars of war, the universality of its horror, and the power of memory and loyalty among those who share such terrible experiences. This film, alongside Petersen's 'Das Boot' deserves a wide audience in the West, not least for its impressive central performances and direction.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A matter of honour - the bugle call, 5 May 2008
By 
Gisli Jokull Gislason "Jokull" (Iceland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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There are quite a few War Movies made about soldiers reminiscent of war. Saving Private Ryan, Brotherhood, Flags of Our Fathers and Days of Glory to name a few. This movie ranks with the best of them.

This movie is surprising in many ways. First of its production values are very high and on par with the best of Hollywood or European Cinema. In fact this is a much better movie than Enemy at the Gates or Flags of Our Fathers and is quite possibly what Flags wanted to be. It takes some getting used to watching a Chinese movie that feels European.

The story is in two parts.

The first half is a continuation of battle scenes that are among the best in war movies for some time. The prespective is at company level so you get quite big battles but it is possible to focus on individuals. Scenery and unit detail is incredible and everything is well done. There is a small dash of theatrics but for the most part these are very realistic gritty battle scenes with excellent cinema work. As I said the best to be seen for quite some time, I would say on par with Band of Brothers except the scenes are bigger and more impressive than in the television series. Attention to detail is of high quality and viewers will be treated to quite a novel experience such as oil barrel mortars. War movie enthusiast should be well pleased. Also the movie throws you right in there from the start with no sentimental scenes of old men in war cemeteries, lying in their dying bed etc.

The second part is a story of redemption. As a survivor Gu Zidi tries to piece togeather what happened and redeem his brothers and himself. This part of the movie is a very Chinese story set in the post civil war Communist state of China and will be harder on the general audience. The important part is if the bodies of the dead are not found then the soldiers are MIA and their families honour is tarnished. Their deaths are worth 200 barrels of rice but would be 700 barrels if the died heroes of Liberation, but that is merely trying to put a price to honour, and the Chinese take honour very seriously. This one man struggle is hard since record keeping in the civil war is sketchy at best and the battlefield has turned into a mountain of coal from nearby mines. Close to the end a solitary veteran is trying to dig at the mountain of coal to redeem his brothers.

The pace of the two stories is very different but the story is focused, linear and is free from going constantly back and forth. Historically it is interesting in that I don't recall any other movie set in the post World War 2 Chinese Civil War although this movie goes on to the Korean War. Nor is this movie any kind of white wash with clear boundries. It goes on in shades of gray.

I thought the movie was good, in fact probably the best one of its kind. I liked how the story went in a straight line instead of going back and forth but it did break the story into 2 distinct halves. War movie buffs will find pleanty to like as will those with an interest in Chinese history if they can stomach the first half and even then there are interesting things such as lack of equipment of the communists and the portrayal of the Chinese soldiers and the conduct of the communist forces. In this day and age when it has become popular to demonize Mao, people tend to forget that there was a reason why the communists won. I recommend Assembly and look forward to seeing more of this new Chinese Cinema.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, worth seeing, but ultimately flawed war film., 25 April 2008
By 
Steampunk "JS" (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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No Spoilers.

This movie is based on a true story, and oddly, I think that might be its biggest problem. It means it has to cover (and try to do justice to) two aspects of one man's life - what happens during the war, and what happens after.

This makes it very much a film of two acts. The first is full of spectacular (and bloody) action scenes that easily rival those of any Hollywood blockbuster.

In the second, we deal with the hero's post-war situation. It's a powerful and moving story, but after the madness that's gone before, it can't help but feel a bit slow. As I watched, I felt that while the war sequences felt 'complete', somehow something seemed to be missing from the second half of the movie - that important relationships and events were being glossed over or skirted around.

As I said, I think the fact that ASSEMBLY is based on a true story is ultimately its biggest weakness. It left me with the feeling that two quite different movies had been spliced together in a way that didn't fully do them justice.

Having said that, it's still a heck of a movie. If this had been made in Hollywood instead of being a subtitled Chinese move, I'm sure a lot more fuss would have been made about its 'power' and 'importance', etc., etc., etc. As I try to compare it to a Hollywood movie, the only one which comes to mind is SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and I think ASSEMBLY is far superior.

If you know nothing about this period of Chinese history, it really doesn't matter. It's a war, like all wars, and that's all you really *need* to know.

ASSEMBLY certainly isn't an all-action popcorn flick, but it certainly deserves a place in the collection of fans of 'serious' war movies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic, heart-felt and horrific portrayal of a war rarely seen., 19 May 2008
This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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The Chinese Civil War was one of the longest conflicts in that nation's history, and yet when asked about it most British people, myself included, could hardly give you the most basic facts about the war (a statement true for the populations of most western countries). So that 'Assembly' stays so compelling despite being about a war most of us don't know the slightest thing about is truly a remarkable acheivement.
The reason 'Assembly' keeps it's audience so engaged is that this is not a film about a war, it's a film about the soldiers who fought it. 'Assembly' follows a small group of men covering the retreat of their main army by holding up in a coal mining complex and repelling the enemy until they hear the assembly bugle call to retreat and rejoin the main army. This portion of the film is the source for the impressive battle sequences that made up the trailer, using a visual style ripped straight from Saving Private Ryan 'Assembly' delivers sequences just as exciting, visceral and fast paced as that movie and in places manages to far outstrip it. All of the characters, though largely archetpal, are ultimatley endearing and their small numbers mean that you quickly become attatched to them and feel the sacrifices and losses of the group as the battle rages inevitably on.
The second portion of the film follows the unit's commander over several years as he tries to establish the truth about what happened at the coal mine and gain the recognition for his men's sacrifice that is yet to be payed. Actor Chao Deng does an excellent job at portraying a man both obsessed and haunted by his past, but the slower and more quietly dramatic pace of this second segment never quite lives up to the film's opening and though it's not exactly anti-climactic it does weaken the experience overall.
That said 'Assembly' remains an epic, entertaining and involving war drama that' well worth your time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating war film, 15 May 2008
By 
CJ (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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The Chinese Civil War broke out just after World War II, and is a conflict not widely known about and certainly not featured in a great many films. Assembly tells the true story of a company of Communist troops who are ordered to defend a critical area close to the Wen River in 1948.

`Company' is a generous term as their numbers stretch to barely two platoons and they are horribly underequipped, but nonetheless they are prepared to face hundreds of the enemy without question. They are eventually overrun and all killed in action with the exception of their commander, Captain Gu.

His orders stated he should wait for the assembly bugle call before falling back - a call that Gu does not hear, despite some of his soldiers trying to convince him otherwise (his hearing is damaged by a shell blast).

The film is broken into two distinct parts, the first half shows Gu's men in action, their deployment to the Wen River and the battle that ensues as they manage to fight back tanks and waves of infantry with just 47 men. The battle scenes are well staged and well shot. The camera is in the heart of the action and as is probably well known, Assembly owes a lot to films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line; albeit on a smaller scale. Gore and violence naturally abound, but then the film needs to show the visceral nature of combat in order for Gu's journey following the war to work.

The second half of the film tells Gu's tale as he then goes on to fight in North Korea and ultimately attempt to prove what happened at the Wen River back in 1948. Official army records just show his men as missing in action, but his constant efforts eventually confirm the truth...and he even discovers the truth regarding the bugle call.

The latter part of the film is a slower pace, but still captivating as Gu struggles to come to terms with what he has been through and the guilt he feels about the deaths on his conscience. The performances throughout are generally very good, although the translated subtitles perhaps don't do the script much justice.

For a relatively small budget, Assembly has the feel of a much bigger film and deserves a wider audience. Whatever your feelings on communism or the rights and wrongs of war, the people caught up in it elicit sympathy and respect. A highly recommended and thought provoking war film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good intention, poor execution, 24 April 2008
By 
L. Otto (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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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 others in depicting the horrors and really pushing forward the well known saying "War is Sh*t". It certainly does; not for one second did I think 'wow, I wish I was there..' and while I think the story was well conceived, showing the bravery and honour of the soldiers fighting, the film really dropped a few points in certain areas.

It's a shame that this would-be awesome film loses marks in a little area called 'camera work' and 'post-production'. Firstly if the camera shook anymore during the battle scenes it would become close to unwatchable, seriously who's point of view are we seeing these battles from? I know it adds drama in moderate doses but this is definitely a case of over-egging the pudding.

Post-production didn't do the film any favours either, a harshly contrasted and desaturated look that's miles away from the sleek and gorgeous 'Letters from Iwo Jima' left the film with lots of dark lines and grain that might well of been the desired effect, but it wasn't to my taste.

Overall, I've seen worse films. There's a good underlying message and the overall direction is very good, its just a shame that a little post-production leaves the film a few steps behind where it should be..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of war, 21 Aug 2008
By 
possessed.by.a.lemon - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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Brotherhood (better known to me, and perhaps you, under its native name Taegukgi) is easily my favourite war film of recent years and lightning has struck twice for the production team with Assembly. At turns brutally visceral and hauntingly poetic, this is a beautiful and powerful depiction of a violent, harrowing event.

As with just about every recent war film, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are given nods but Xiaogang Feng takes it to another level, free of Hollywood's constraining grip and melodramatic tendencies. There's no propaganda here either, no sides taken. These soldiers are doing what they're told to. They're not gung-ho video game staples, they're real men fearing for their lives while accepting that they have to sacrifice them if necessary. I mean, I admire Steven Spielberg's WWII film on many levels but Tom Hanks and Edward Burns couldn't pull this off.

I was sent the DVD, but after watching it I immediately ordered the Blu-ray as the striking direction and cinematography deserve the best possible fidelity. This is a resounding success, and with the Beijing games taking place, there's no better time to check out a somewhat different piece of China's history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War and post war - honour and grim realism - battle and storyline, 30 April 2008
By 
Mark Loughridge (Letterkenny, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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If you like more of a storyline to your war films, in addition to the battles, this is for you.

It's a tremendous film. The fact that it tells a completely unknown story from a war largely unknown to me added to the value.

As war films get more and more brutal and realistic it was good to view one that whilst portraying that, moved beyond to another aspect of the story half way through. Captain Gu Zidi's search for the truth and his determination to see his men honoured was a breathe of fresh air and well done.

The change of pace within the film made it all the more enjoyable to watch - rather than having your senses battered with violence and gore for the whole film.

By way of caveats:

Those of a sensitive nature will find the war violence gruesome no doubt, but it happens at speed and isn't dwelt on often.
Also there is little need for the swear words to be subtitled also.

In Conclusion:
I'm not a technical film buff so all the critical comments about production values were lost on me, and if you are just an average film watcher like me, you'll enjoy this, provided you can stand the grim brutality of war in the opening 45 minutes.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A film of 2 halves, 19 Dec 2008
By 
godzilla78 (northern ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
For the most part, the first hour of the film is almost wall-to-wall action and features the best scenes of fighting i've seen from a war film. Seriously, it puts saving private ryan to shame. Blood everywhere, body parts blown off and high intensity violence. The war scenes are well directed it must be said and the violence is not done for shock value but rather to show the horrors of war. The second half of the film is a human drama which tells the story of the one sole survivor who seeks to find the bodies of his fallen comrades. He also strives to have them remembered and recognized as war heroes rather than missing in action etc. He must fight against communist bueracracy and those who think he is just a broken soldier who is losing his mind. Time is not on his side due to an injury sustained during the war. It's a touching drama and is well shot throughout, and by far a superior war film when compared to most recent efforts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving War Flick, 1 May 2008
By 
David A. Nash "Nash aka Taker" (Chesterfield) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Assembly [DVD] (DVD)
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The special effects are vast and of good quality.
The Story follows a Captain Guzidi through the Civil War.
After being thrown in jail for wearing stolen uniforms, Guzidi is sent to protect the south bank with limited troops and ammo (sounds familiar!)

Guzidi emerges after the battle to start asking questions of high command and trying to find justice in the actions of his friend and officer Liu.

This film was gripping from the moment I switched it on to when it ended, excellent film.

SUBTITLED - The film is subtitled and you often feel as if your watching the old WWII films from the german perspective, but if your OK with subtitles or if you can talk mandarin then this is the film for you. I hated subtitled films until I saw The Serpent.

All in all I will give this 4 stars. Great watch.
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Assembly [DVD]
Assembly [DVD] by Feng Xiagang (DVD - 2008)
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