Writer: Tammy AngWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Pearl Harbor", "Lust, Caution"
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, "Shanghai" is a romance, espionage thriller and mystery film, with the story set in 1940s Shanghai, China. It boasts a strong cast namely John Cusack and three other Asian stars Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat and Ken Watanabe. Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat are a duo not to be messed with as they continue their husband and wife 'relationship' in "Shanghai" after "Curse Of The Golden Flower", as Anna Lan-Ting and Anthony Lan-Ting. "Shanghai" tells the story of an American, Paul Soames (played by John Cusack) who stumbles across government secrets while investigating the death of a friend.
This period movie began shooting on location in Shanghai, but due to Chinese concerns over the script, the government revoked authorisation to film and the set was forced to move to Thailand and United Kingdom. Fortunately, one can't really tell that the set is actually a double up location, especially during the beginning where there is a crane-shot over the set, giving you a glimpse of the whole colonial era of Shanghai. Thumbs up to the Thailand's excellent film infrastructure!
The plot development of the story is quite interesting as it sort of starts from the middle of the story, leaving audiences in curiosity. The drama then unfolds quickly, leading to an unpredictable ending with a twist. You would have to follow the characters throughout the whole movie to know what happens next. Technically, this is really an amazing piece as the lighting is also impressive, using quite a lot of low key lighting and yellowish tint to bring out the mysterious and nostalgic atmosphere.
Romance plays quite a major part in the film, as the theme portrays how men would blindly do anything for the women they love, while women plays the main factor that leads men into danger and inevitably deadly situations. It can't help but to place itself as a male-oriented movie that ladies watching might feel offended by the stark gender-stereotype.
For a movie that carries big names, expect to see limited on-screen performances by Ken Watanabe and Chow Yun-Fat as the lime light goes mostly to John Cusack and the forever gorgeous Gong Li. Although Chow Yun-Fat's scenes are inadequate, his shooting sequence will definitely make you recall some of his previous movies (e.g. "The Bunt") that had his exact signature pose. Gong Li looks a little fleshier now, especially when she appears in a cheongsam. Nevertheless, she still outshined all casts members, playing the mysterious yet charismatic Anna that men would die for to have her.Cinema Online, 28 June 2010