After the success of “The Banquet”, a Chinese adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which was applauded by critics and viewers alike, director Feng Xiaogang has come up with another brilliantly scripted film called “Assembly”. The period chosen for this feature film is the Chinese Civil War and the story revolves around Gu Zidi (Hanyu Zhang) and his leadership of the 9th Company, which he guides through the fiercest of battles during the civil war. The war is between the Communist PLA and the Nationalist KMT and the year is 1948 while the place is northeast China. The scene starts in a winter month with Gu Zidi and his men engaged in a street fight with some KMT soldiers.
The death of his political officer angers Gu Zidi to such a great extent that he kills one of the KMT soldiers in cold blood even when the men have surrendered to the 9th Company. Gu Zidi is sentenced to a few days of imprisonment for shooting the soldier and while he is in prison, he meets Wang Jincun (Yuan Wenkang), a political officer who is probably going to receive a death sentence for his cowardice. Gu Zidi and Wang Jincun become friends and so when Gu Zidi is asked to lead the 9th Company on a special mission by an old friend, Liu Zeshui (Hu Jun) from the time of their Guerrilla training, Gu Zidi asks for Wang Jincun to accompany him as the political officer.
Gu Zidi leads his soldiers onto the battlefield and his men fight bravely although they are insufficiently equipped and fewer in numbers as compared to the large and well-equipped troops of the KMT. After a heated battle, Gu Zidi’s soldiers tell him that they have heard rumours of the KMT pulling out of the battle, but Gu Zidi does not believe it to be true and so the 9th Company fights the battle to the last of its men, which is Gu Zidi. Here the movie shifts two months ahead and we see Gu Zidi in a PLA hospital, but he is temporarily unable to remember his identity. The movie again shifts up three years and we see Gu Zidi once again on the battlefield, this time fighting a civil war against the South Koreans and the Americans.
Here again he saves a life, that of Er Dou (Deng Chao) who accidentally steps on a mine. The film now reels forward to 1955, in independent China, where the rest of the story takes place. By now Gu Zidi has taken it upon himself to fight against official bureaucracy in order to gain back honour for himself and his dead companions and accompanying him in this battle are Er Dou, Wang’s widow and Sun Guiqin. What is exceptionally good about the film is the patriotic fervour and the feelings of camaraderie for fellow soldiers who had fought alongside each other to brave the toughest of battles together. Even as a veteran Gu Zidi is determined to fight for the rights of his fellow soldiers.
Hanyu Zhang has given a brilliant performance lending a strong character to Gu Zidi and so have all the other stars who have done equal justice to their characters. Although the film has a resemblance to other war stories, it sets itself apart in a unique way and is definitely worth seeing.
Director: Xiaogang Feng
Cast: Chao Deng, Heng Fu, Jun Hu, Phil Jones, Fan Liao
Awards: Beijing Student Film Festival, Huabiao Film Awards, Shanghai Film Critics Awards, Golden Horse Film Festival, Golden Phoenix Awards, China,Golden Rooster Awards, Hundred Flowers Awards
Nominations: Golden Horse Film Festival, Golden Rooster Awards, Hundred Flowers Awards
Country: China, Hong Kong