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SAVING GENERAL YANG

SYNOPSIS:
When the Khitans attack the Song Empire of China's Northern Han Kingdom in the 10th century, General Yang (Adam Cheng) and his seven sons are determined to stop them - at great cost in lives. Amidst war, family honour must also survive.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Cinematically exquisite, Saving General Yang is lush and wide and sweeping and bloody ... all those things that culminate in the description 'epic'. Ronny Yu has gone to ancient Han in 10th century China for two of the film's most potent elements. One is the historical basis of the battles that the Yangs of the Song Dynasty fought against the Khitans, major events in China's psyche. This aspect gives the film its patriotic glue, its stirring, old fashioned war cries and its spectacular flag waving fights.

The first major clash is the Battle of Sand Beach, a fierce horseback battle with swords, spears, arrows and hand to hand fighting, all to a driving, dramatic underscore. (Although eons apart, this scene probably has the most resonance with the film whose title Yu has appropriated: Stephen Speilberg's Saving Private Ryan.)

One of the most striking visuals is the discovery of hundreds of bodies the enemy has skewered on spears stuck into the blood soaked battle ground.

Many of the ancient technologies of warfare seem precursors of today's weapons. In one battle, bags filled with inflammable material (not sure what, possibly a form of alcohol) are hurled by advancing horsemen via hand held catapults towards the enemy, and are torn open by a fuselage of arrows - followed by flaming arrows - a primitive sort of Molotov cocktail perhaps.

Another is a primitive form of missile attack, in which large catapults launch giant rocks into enemy lines, causing massive damage and plenty of dread.

The second element is also old fashioned: family loyalty, especially those of sons. The key Yangs depicted here (vaguely based on the historical ones) are the patriarch, the General (Adam Cheng) and his seven sons, with the eldest (Ekin Cheng) taking the hero's role in the vital battle to save his captured father from the enemy.

The film is a spectacle, made more so by stunning widescreen cinematography and fabulous costumes, jewellery, hair and overall production design. Everything it promises, it delivers.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SAVING GENERAL YANG (MA15+)
(Hong Kong, 2013)

CAST: Ekin Chang, Fan Xu, Raymond Lam, Adam Cheng, Chun Wu, Vic Chow, Chen Li, Xin Bo Fu, Bo Yu, Vivi Lee Apple Wang

PRODUCER: Bik-Ming Wong

DIRECTOR: Ronny Yu

SCRIPT: Ronny Yu, Edmond Wong (translation by Kat Lo)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chi Ying Chan

EDITOR: Drew Thompson

MUSIC: Kenji Kawai

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kenneth Mak

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 4, 2013







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