War feeds on death, but war cinema is a blood-pumping adrenaline rush.
War feeds on death, but war cinema is a blood-pumping adrenaline rush. Even when the aesthetic is as familiar as Feng Xiaogang’s Assembly, there’s something thrilling about seeing the full armoury of filmmaking in action: the dollies, the cranes, the special effects, the fluid fleetness of combat photography.
So even though the shadow of Kang Je-gyu’s Brotherhood and Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan hang heavily over almost every frame, it’s hard to resist Assembly. Set in the Chinese Civil War between 1948 and 1955, it follows the twisting tale of a communist officer whose platoon is wiped out.
To anybody unfamiliar with the history, the lack of a bigger picture aptly focuses attention on the individuals who suffer the full panoply of the horrors of war. It’s not explosively original, but it is a blast.