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2012 - The Silent War

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 3:13 am    Post subject: 2012 - The Silent War Reply with quote

The Silent War (2012)

Follow the Silent War thread (Sep 26, 2011-Sep 21, 2012)

The Silent War Movie Reviews (imdb: english)

The Silent War (baidu: chinese)

听风者 - The Silent War (sina: chinese)

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:38 am    Post subject: Strains of war Reply with quote

Strains of war

The Silent War, a tale of espionage set in 1950s revolutionary China, is unconvincing in parts

boon chan, August 15, 2012 Wednesday

The Straits Times (Singapore) | Review Drama

The story: Blind piano tuner assistant He Bing (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) has an excellent sense of hearing. He is recruited by Zhang Xuening (Zhou Xun), an agent of 701 Headquarters of the newly established China Republic government in the 1950s, to detect the frequencies on which the enemy, a vague threat, is broadcasting sensitive information.

It has been said that feted Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai acts with his eyes. In acclaimed dramas such as In The Mood For Love (2000) and Lust, Caution (2007), he could convey the emotions roiling beneath a placid surface with just a searing glance.

So how does he fare when the character he is playing is blind'

Pretty well, thank you very much, and this role lets Leung demonstrate that he does not act with just his eyes. His charisma remains intact even while wearing lenses or dark glasses that cover his piercing peepers. It helps that the character is not some angsty tortured person but a likeable rascally fellow who has to get by on his wits.

The sound design also does a good job of putting the audience in He's shoes by heightening the noises that filter through to him in a scene where he is being tailed by Zhang and her men.

As Zhang and He later work together, she begins to feel protective of him and he starts to have feelings for her. Their relationship is played out with restraint but perhaps a little too tentatively as other characters enter the picture.

One is actually more intrigued by the enigmatic relationship between Zhang and her boss Old Devil (Wang Xuebing). And He later ends up with the cryptologist Shen Jing (Mavis Fan) in a development that feels rather pat.

The film reunites Leung with Hong Kong film-makers Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who had collaborated as writers for the excellent cop thriller Infernal Affairs (2002). Here, Mak and Chong both direct, from a script adapted from China novelist Mai Jia's An Suan (Plot Against, 2006).

And it seems possible to detect the seeds of The Silent War in that earlier film.

There is a tensely pivotal scene in Infernal Affairs which involved Morse code being tapped out on a window. Here, the transmission of Morse code messages consumes the protagonists.

The stakes, though, are generally vague here and one never gets the sense of the enemy beyond a few references to Chiang Kai-shek.

And when the stakes are made clearer towards the end in a hunt for the master enemy agent Chungking, what unfolds rests too much on the trite coincidence of similar-sounding Morse codes with very different meanings.

The poignancy of the tragedy that strikes He is also diminished as the rationale for his actions is less than fully convincing.

But at least Leung keeps one watching.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:43 am    Post subject: The Silent War Reply with quote

The Silent War

LoveHKFilm Reviews

Chinese: 聽風者
Year: 2012
Director: Alan Mak Siu-Fai, Felix Chong Man-Keung
Producer: Ronald Wong Ban, Charley Zhao
Writer: Alan Mak Siu-Fai, Felix Chong Man-Keung, Mai Jia (original novel)

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhou Xun, Wang Xuebing, Mavis Fan Hsiao-Shuan, Dong Yong, Lam Wai, Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung,Sin Lap-Man, Carrie Ng Ka-Lai, Henry Fong Ping, Bai Ru, Gan Tingting

The Skinny: Mainland spy thriller from Alan Mak and Felix Chong is competent, unchallenging and unremarkable entertainment. Zhou Xun lifts the whole thing above average but the detached concept and lack of real tension drag the whole thing back down. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai is amusing and incongruous in the lead role. Only so-so.

Review by Kozo:

Tony Leung does the blind man thing for a third time in Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s espionage thriller The Silent War, based on the popular novel “Plot Against” by writer Mai Jia. Leung’s previous two sight-impaired turns were in Wong Jing’s formulaic Blind Romance and Joe Ma’s fanciful Sound of Colors, so Silent War automatically seems more exciting. However, enlarged expectations should be tempered. Despite being about spies and subterfuge, Silent War is only marginally thrilling, with a detached concept and few active set pieces. It’s not all negatives; the story features an interesting character dynamic and a great romantic set-up, and Zhou Xun is very good as the female lead. Silent War doesn’t live up to immediate expectations, but it does provide sufficient if unremarkable entertainment. Hey, they can’t all be classics.

It’s 1949 and senior investigator Zhang Xue-Ning (Zhou Xun) joins the 701, a government unit tasked with stopping an “invisible enemy”. Xue-Ning fails to recruit noted piano tuner Luo San-Er (Pal Sin) to the 701, but she ends up finding someone better: Luo San-Er’s blind assistant Bing (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), who has ears that would make a dog jealous. Bing doesn’t need a cane and is able to move through spaces by “hearing” them. He can also discern a greater range of frequencies than normal, and can even separate minute sounds from the roaring din. Bing is basically Marvel Comics’ Daredevil working for the People’s Liberation Army, and is soon drafted into the 701 to find hidden enemy radio frequencies used to transmit Morse Code. With his super ears, Bing finds the frequencies quickly, making him an instant China hero. However, Bing cares less for heroism than he does for Xue-Ning’s attentions. He pines ardently for his spy handler, but she remains cool to his attentions.

Bing befriends pretty codebreaker Shen Jing (Mavis Fan) while Xue-Ning watches from the sidelines. But a mutual attraction lingers between Bing and Xue-Ning. Surely their shared passion will emerge as their spy work becomes more tense and treacherous? Sorry, that’s not the story of Silent War, which is sad because this hidden romance may be the film’s most tantalizing subplot, and Zhou Xun and Tony Leung bring it, each in their own way. Leung turns in a playful if jarring star performance; Bing is knowing and snarky but also loyal and sensitive, and his affection for Xue-Ning comes out in cute fits of lovelorn petulance. Meanwhile, Xue-Ning can only hide her feelings, and Zhou gets across her character’s longing with wordless expressions and conflicted gazes that could carry whole films. Repressed feelings, devious spies, potential love triangles or rectangles – there’s enough here for a crackling romantic thriller or at least a lighter, less sexy version of Lust, Caution.

No go. The filmmakers kill further romantic tension with a second act event, resigning the narrative to surveillance spy thrills. The storyline remains interesting, as Bing must ferret out five enemy spies in Shanghai, with one IDed as a big cheese called “Chungking.” Xue-Ning is tasked with the actual field work, but her espionage mostly involves playing mahjong with suspected Chungking candidates. One potent plot twist later, the film is back to its radio-centered tension, with Bing frantically listening to static to find the bad guys. This tension-via-eavesdropping is sometimes entertaining – the film has fun with the ridiculous idea that Bing can actually discern someone’s character and personality by listening to them transmit Morse Code – but it’s not enough to sustain a two-hour spy drama from opening to climax. Many teased subplots (adultery, betrayers in the 701) are avoided, possibly because this is a film about loyal PLA spies, and portraying them as morally dubious or corrupt would likely be frowned upon by SARFT.

With surprise and more complex emotions tabled Silent War can only satisfy as a standard and unchallenging commercial film, albeit one with big movie stars and a classier-than-usual production. Alan Mak and Felix Chong continue their streak of competent co-directed films, each providing some measure of entertainment while rarely achieving more. The Lost Bladesman and the Overheard films are prime examples of the duo’s issues, the films possessing great situations and ideas but only so-so execution. Mak and Chong are currently better writers than they directors, and lack the directorial chops to transmit their ambition or deeper ideas to an audience. Silent War hits the requisite narrative beats, but without greater tension or stronger emotion, the film falls well below recent period spy films Lust, Caution and The Message (which was also based on a Mai Jia novel).

Silent War ends with some flag-waving People’s Liberation Army hoo-hah demonstrating patriotic pride and should-be stirring pathos. The rush of uniforms, flags and saluting may be a bit too much for detractors of “Main Melody” films, but Silent War isn’t really propaganda. The film never demonizes the bad guys – the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-Shek – which is wise because Chinese vs. Chinese stories aren’t the easiest sell to a Pan-China audience. That said, without any ideology behind the characters, the film loses an opportunity to affect those less initiated. Despicable villains may be bad for international sales, but good vs. evil can create stronger stakes for people who don’t automatically fall into the PLA rank-and-file. But in a world where giant robots are the most bankable international stars, making your bad guys as generic as possible is pretty much the way to go. Hey, China filmmakers, here’s your next blockbuster movie idea: China versus Aliens. (Kozo, 2012)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:45 am    Post subject: THE SILENT WAR (2012) Reply with quote



Genre: War/Thriller
Director: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
Cast: Tony Leung, Zhou Xun, Mavis Fan, Dong Yong, Wang Xuebin, Pal Sinn, Carrie Ng, Lam Wai, Fong Ping, Jacob Cheung
Runtime: 2 hrs
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: -

Opening Day: 16 August 2012

Synopsis: Things don’t always go as your eyes see while truth’s always hidden underneath.

In 1950s, the China Republic Government is newly established. Revolutionists in different parts of China seek chances to revolt. Everywhere is restless and chaotic. 701 Headquarter, consists of Inspection, Interpretation and Operation, is set up to spy conspiracy through telegraph. But one day in October, all of a sudden, the enemy shut down 126 military channels for 30 hours. After these long hours, when they tune back the channels, only daily news is being broadcasted. Without concrete information, operators at the frontline are at risk.

Chang Xue-ning is of Operation’s. She is sent back to the Headquarter as her identity has been disclosed in Hong Kong. Reporting in 701, she is astonished by her supervisor, Guo Zhong-xing, who used to woo her. Their relation is still a mystery. Xue-ning’s new mission is to seek for worthy who gets superb aural comprehension. She targets Luo San-er, the piano tuner of Song Qing Ling but it turns out she brings Luo’s personal assistant, He Bing to report duty. Bing is uncivilized and blind but his hearing is splendid - can even hear the wind. Is he strong enough to be the saviour in this silent war?

Movie Review:

War, in any number of forms, is a frantic activity. War movies, in juxtaposition, are inherently an entertainment business, made by people who measure with near perfect precision the amount of drama and tension that best represents the specific war being discussed. Unfortunately, The Silent War is a miscalculation of the worst sort, mildly interesting in the least parts and wholly numb in the most parts. It takes too long to arrive at any kind of tension and buries its exhausting journey there in an uncomfortable direction and bald sentimentality. I don’t hate The Silent War, but it’s often more trouble than it’s worth.

The movie takes place in 1950s China where revolutionists run rampant. The government responds with the 701 agency, a secret department that spies on conspirators through telegraphs, intercepts their messages and intervenes before they hit. After the enemy cripples the transmissions, secret service agent Zhang Xue-Ning (Zhou Xun) is forced to recruit blind piano tuner He Bing (Tony Leung). He Bing eventually retrieves the transmissions with his heightened sense of hearing but not before he falls into a romantic gridlock with Xue-Ning and colleague Shen Jing (Mavis Fan). With the revolutionists quickly closing in on the government, the agency must stop them at all costs.

Married to the direction of Infernal Affairs veterans Alan Mak and Felix Chong, The Silent War explodes into a cunning game of deceit between the good and the bad during the last half hour, culminating in a gripping finale that sees our heroes barely save theday. It’s a finely performed conclusion that manages to feel like the worst type of indulgence, one that is only justified because the rest of the film is so terrible. Alan and Felix are uncharacteristically conservative here, almost too timid to explore the massive scale of the war and merely satisfied to lock the majority of the movie within the dark hallways of the agency’s building.

The result is a largely one-sided and stiff movie that doesn’t quite earn the narrative trust it’s supposed to have. Tony Leung tries to save the film by applying the most ridiculous dose of concentration in turning radio knobs and conveying a face perpetually taut with distress as he leans in on encrypted messages from the revolutionists while his colleagues caress morse code-printed paper incessantly. It’s all done so that you can pretend that there’re field agents on the frontlines receiving this intelligence and doing all the exciting stuff like chasing and shooting bad guys. Of course, this never materialises and you’re trapped with seeing Tony Leung wearing sunglasses and turning radio knobs for almost 1.5 hours.

At this point, I feel that it’s both fairly accurate and patently unfair to label Tony Leung’s character boring. While the film restricts him to a largely pretentious role, he has a thankless task of quickly switching to a jocular, if somewhat abrasive demeanour that lends reasonable credibility to the romantic portions of the film. This still doesn’t excuse the poorly handled romantic threads that seemingly tear you out of the experience at random intervals, bearable at best and jarring at worst. Fortunately, the love story arcs survive the questionable introduction to work effectively into the denouement.

The biggest problem with The Silent War is that it requires you to invest your interest in a hefty 1.5 hours before rewarding you the big prize in the last half hour. This would be fine if the first 1.5 hours didn’t struggle while attempting to come up with anything remotely interesting. By the time it gets to the really good stuff in the last half hour, the movie’s nearly over and it tries to establish elements that it never spent enough time considering. The Silent War is a movie that could be great, should be great, but isn’t great.

Movie Rating:

(Only the last half hour is worth watching)

Review by Loh Yong Jian

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:47 am    Post subject: Film Review: The Silent War Reply with quote

Film Review: The Silent War

2012-08-30 09:36:34

Chinese Films Reviews

Genre: Period spy drama

2012, colour, 2.35:1, 118 mins

Directed by Alan Mak, Felix Chong

Actress Zhou Xun is the only reason to watch this clumsy, poorly written spy drama. Asian events at best.


Hong Kong, 1949. Zhang Xuening (Zhou Xun), agent 200 with the communist 701 Bureau, receives a coded telegram from Shanghai that the US is planning to make a Chinese missile engineer, codenamed Sparrow (Jacob Cheung), "disappear". Sparrow, who previously worked in the US, is now back in Hong Kong and is planning to defect to Beijing the next day. At a farewell party for him that night, Xuening spirits Sparrow away. At 701 Bureau's HQ in southern China, Xuening is instructed by its head, known as Devil (Wang Xuebing), to bring back from Shanghai a famous piano tuner, Luo Saner, whose acute sense of pitch could help the bureau's radio-monitoring division find the frequencies now being used by KMT agents for military information. In Shanghai, she rescues instead Luo's blind assistant, He Bing (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who has a much more highly developed sense of hearing, and brings him back to 701's HQ. He Bing manages to discover over 70 radio channels in a couple of days, which provide intelligence that KMT agents are gathering in China's major cities, including Shanghai. He Bing develops a liking for Xuening, though she has feelings for her boss, Devil. When 701 agent Wu Chang (Dong Yuan) is killed in Shanghai while following KMT agent Zhang Guoxiang (Lam Wai), Devil suspects there are still some undiscovered radio channels being used by the KMT for advanced codes. He Bing finds them, and learns that the head of the whole KMT spying operation is codenamed Chongqing. While Xuening is away on a long mission in Shanghai, He Bing marries Shen Jing (Mavis Fan), a decipher clerk whose father is head of the KMT's Deciphering Unit. When Xuening returns, she brings with her a doctor who can cure He Bing's blindness. Soon afterwards she leaves for a deadly mission in Shanghai, to track down Chongqing.


ZHOU Xun, who's gradually developed into one of China's classiest actresses, is the only reason (not for the first time in her career) to watch the otherwise clumsily directed and poorly written spy drama The Silent War. On paper the movie sounds very promising: Zhou teams again with Hong Kong's Tony LEUNG Chiu-wai, with whom she recently struck sparks in The Great Magician; the script is adapted from a 2006 novel by Mainland writer MAI Jia, author of the original book from which the spy drama The Message (2009), also starring Zhou, was adapted; and the writer-directors are Hong Kong's Alan MAK and Felix CHONG (Infernal Affairs (2002), Overheard (2009)). So much for the theory.

In practice, almost nothing works. Mak and Chong effectively ditch the original novel — already the basis for a 40-part TV drama, Plot Against (2005), directed by actor LIU Yunlong — in favour of a clumsily constructed drama mixing code-breaking, romance and action but almost completely ignoring the political background of the early days of the PRC. Leung, already given a totally unsuitable voice in his Mandarin redubbing, is miscast in a role that's half-jokey and half just twiddling radio dials. And the whole movie is plastered with a score by Hong Kong's Comfort CHAN (Infernal Affairs, Bodyguards and Assassins) that is either overstated or simply inappropriate when it should be developing tension or mystery.

The rest of the Hong Kong crew's contributions are so-so at best (including action by Dion LAM), with only Anthony PUN's grey, shadowy images of the code-breaking HQ having any atmosphere. Even setpieces, such as Leung's character being followed through the streets as his ears tune into peripheral sounds, fail to develop much tension, and the technical side of his spy job — a key plot component, one would have thought — is left fuzzy at best, all the more surprising in a film by the makers of the acute surveillance drama Overheard.

Aside from Zhou, whose cool performance dominates from the start (and earns the movie an extra point), Mainland actor WANG Xuebing gets few chances in the script to make much of an impression as her equally cool boss, and the attraction between the two remains largely theoretical. Taiwan's Mavis FAN (About Love (2004)) comes over likeably but also gets few scenes in which to develop her character, the daughter of a KMT code-breaker who's ludicrously been given a high-security job as a communist code-breaker. It's just one of many loose ends in the lazy script by Mak and Chong, two film-makers whose chequered career since Infernal Affairs has been given more than enough benefit of the doubt.

Source: Film Business Asia

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:49 am    Post subject: The Silent War Reply with quote

The Silent War

By MAGGIE LEE (Hong Kong-China)

Variety | Film Reviews

A Mei Ah Entertainment Group (in Hong Kong/China) release of a Mei Ah Film Production Co., Mei Ah Media (Beijing), Zhejiang Golden Globe Pictures Co., Wanda Media Co., Mei Ah Entertainment Development presentation of a Mei Ah Film Production Co., Pop Movies production. (International sales: Mei Ah Entertainment Group, Hong Kong) Produced by Ronald Wong, Charley Zhuo. Executive producers, Li Kuo-hsing, Li Guo-lin, Karen Fu, Song Ge, Chiu Shun-ching. Directed, written by Alan Mak, Felix Chong, based on the novel "Plot Against" by Mai Jia.

With: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Zhou Xun, Wang Xuebing, Mavis Fan, Dong Yong, Pal Sinn, Lam Wai, Carrie Ng Ka-lai, Tang Qun, Henry Fong Ping, Zhang Haiyan, Jacob Cheung Chi-leung. (Mandarin dialogue)

The dots and dashes don't connect in "The Silent War," a '50s Chinese spy thriller that examines the interception of government intelligence via radio frequencies. Hong Kong helmers Alan Mak and Felix Chong's first foray into propagandist "main rhythm" filmmaking maintains a relatively engaging dramatic arc, but ultimately fails to create a riveting interface between the protagonist's extraordinary aural powers and the science of eavesdropping. Dismissing it as a glorification of the Chinese Communist Party, Hong Kong auds tuned out, but mainland B.O. has been a roaring success with $30 million. Main plug for overseas markets is topliner Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

Pic is adapted from "Ting feng zhe" (which translates as "Listener to the Wind"), the first installment of the three-part espionage novel "Plot Against" by Mai Jia, a sort of mainland John le Carre. Mak and Chong's screenplay significantly simplifies the plot, and benefits from the addition of a strong female character played by Zhou Xun. Still, the result lacks the sensationalist thrills and emotional heft of "The Message," Gao Qunshu's 2009 screen adaptation of another Mai novel.

The subject here can be seen as an extension of the co-helmers' other works, notably the "Overheard" and "Infernal Affairs" series, exploring themes of double dealing, surveillance and mind reading, though the contempo intrigues and moral dilemmas explored in those films are absent in this period setting.

After China's Civil War ended in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party maintained a tenuous grip in big cities and remained under threat of retaliation from the deposed, Taiwan-based Kuomintang (KMT) government. None of this is lucidly conveyed in the dizzyingly edited opening sequence, which gets off to an abrupt start at a Hong Kong high-society ball, where femme fatale Zhang Xuening (Zhou) flirts with Guo Xingzhong (Wang Xuebing, wooden), the playboy son of a shipping magnet. This is followed by a hasty scene shift to a mountainous area in southern China, home of the CCP's 701 Bureau, where trained experts scan radio frequencies to pick up and decipher the enemy's encrypted messages.

Identifying himself as the bureau chief, "Devil," Xingzhong attempts to remedy the sudden disappearance of 120 channels they've been tapping by sending agent Xuening (Zhou), codenamed 200, to Shanghai to recruit Luo San'er (Pal Sinn), a piano tuner with legendary hearing. Xuening discovers it's actually Luo's blind sidekick, He Bing (Leung), who's ultra-sensitive to low-frequency sounds, and takes him under wing.

A warm, playful chemistry between the astute agent and the sneaky layabout suffuses the early stages, with Leung's mischievous touches enlivening scenes of Bing's initiation and ideological awakening. Although the perfs are lackluster compared with what the thesps have delivered elsewhere, the four-way romantic longing among Xuening, Xingzhong, Bing and Morse code specialist Shen Jing (Mavis Fan, wan) achieves a degree of poignancy. A number of Hong Kong character actors well known in the '80s and '90s, namely Carrie Ng Ka-lai, Lam Wai and Henry Fong Ping, pop up briefly, but their roles are too functional to evoke anything beyond cinema nostalgia.

What bogs down the film isn't its morally black-and-white representations of CCP and KMT agents, or its "Motherland uber alles" stance, which only starts to jar in the final reel. Rather, it's the long, inert scenes focused on radio telegraphy; although Morse code is crucial to the plot, its technical workings are not explained in an interesting manner. The suspenseful action typical of this genre is reduced to one well-staged escape sequence in a concert hall, and the finale, which promises an explosive showdown, becomes a procedural letdown.

Overall tech package is well appointed. Choice of authentic period interiors, embellished by elegant set decoration, proves visually interesting enough to offset tepid shots of telegraph-tapping protags. A critical flaw is the thunderous orchestral music and clamorous sound effects that surge whenever Bing tries to listen for something significant, all but drowning out any vivid evocation of his sensory experience.

Camera (color, widescreen), Anthony Pun; editor, Curran Pang; music, Chan Kwong-wing; production designer, Man Lim Chung; set decorator, Lee Kwan-lung; sound (Dolby Digital) Traithep Wongpaiboon, Nopawat Likitwong, Kaikangwol Rungsakorn; supervising sound editor, Likitwong; re-recording mixers, Wongpaiboon, Likitwong; visual effects supervisor, Alex Lim Hung Fung; visual effects, Free D Workshop; action coordinator, Dion Lam; assistant directors, Felicia Tang Ning, Yang Huan; second unit director, Jonathan Liu; casting, Liu Bin, Zhang Xiaomin. Reviewed at AMC Pacific Place, Hong Kong, Aug. 19, 2012. Running time: 119 MIN.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Silent War (Mandarin)

Cinemaonline Singapore

Adapted from the novel "Year Suan/Plot Against" by May Jia, "The Silent War" is set in 1950s, where the China Republic Government has just been established. There are revolutionists in different parts of China seeking chances to revolt and chaos is just around the corner. 701 Headquarters, which consists of Inspection, Interpretation and Operation departments, are set up to intercept telegraphs related to the rebel conspiracy. Chang Xue-ning is one such government agent. She is sent back to 701 Headquarters as her identity has been compromised in Hong Kong. Her new mission is to seek for someone with superb aural comprehension. She targets Luo San-er, a piano tuner, but as it turns out she had brought in Luo's personal assistant, He Bing in instead. Bing is uncivilized and blind but his hearing is so splendid that can even hear the wind. Is he strong enough to be the saviour in this silent war?

Classification: PG
Genre: Thriller
General Release Date: 16 Aug 2012
Running Time: 2 Hours
Distributor: Shaw Organisation
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhou Xun, Mavis Fan
Director: Alan Mak

Review by Elaine Ewe

Alan Mak reteams with "Infernal Affairs" and "Confessions Of Pain" star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai for the political thriller "The Silent War", which centres around a blind piano tuner named He Bing (Tony Leung), whose crass ways belies a hidden aptitude for sounds. In the 1950s, the newly established China Republic Government faces threats of revolutionists seeking chances to revolt, which leads to the setup of 701 Headquarters, to decipher conspiracies through telegraph channels. However, one day in October, all of a sudden, the enemy shut down 126 military channels for 30 hours, and after hours, when they tune back the channels, only daily news is being broadcasted. Desperate, Chang Xue-ning (Zhou Xun), is sent to seek for Luo San-er, a master piano tuner, only to discover that it is Luo's personal assistant, He Bing, that helped him built up his reputation.

Leung's portrayal of He Bing resembles Simon Baker's portrayal of Patrick Jane is CBS' "The Mentalist". For those reading this who do not know, Patrick Jane is a former "psychic" who becomes a consultant to the fictional California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), using the highly developed observational skills he previously employed to "read" peoples' minds after a tragedy. Like Baker, Leung's He Bing is self-assured and cocky, yet he does not come off as exasperating, but endearing. When you pay for the admission ticket for "The Silent War", you are not paying to watch an Alan Mak film; you are paying to watch Tony Leung exert his charisma and skills over you, to laugh when he arrogantly shows of his skills, childishly sulks when he is rebuffed by his lady love and greedily make bargains with 701 Operatives. An actor who has won nine Hong Kong Film Awards and three Golden Horse Best Actor awards, Leung is Asia's Clark Gable who put his genius in acting since the 1990s, and it shows profoundly in "The Silent War", considering the film's narrative lack of presence.

It cannot be said that "The Silent War" is for lack of trying, but therein lies the problem. The film tries too hard to be the political thriller that "Infernal Affairs" was, but the latter has the advantage of an ensemble cast that consists of Hong Kong's top four actors, Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong. "The Silent War" only has Tony Leung, Zhou Xun and Mavis Fan. Thankfully, what is there for "The Silent War" does not do too shabbily. Alan Mak tries his best to craft "The Silent War" into a departure of stereotype, such as giving He Bing a life outside of his interest with Chang Xue-Ning, changing the title from "The Windseeker" to "The Silent War" to sound less cheesy and more metaphoric, and inserting a twist towards the end, although more detail and background on Zhou Xun and Mavis Fan's character would have been welcome. We never got to learn why Chang Xue-Ning acted the way she did with He Bing, nor do we get more acting out of Mavis Fan beyond her eager, kind and understanding persona. On the other hand, you'd be hard-pressed to complain about their acting in the film and chemistry like that between Tony Leung and Zhou Xun is not easy to come by.

Alan Mak has demonstrated that he could do cinematography as well as the other Hong Kong director after "Infernal Affairs", "Initial D", "Confessions Of Pain" and "Overheard", and he does not disappoint either in "The Silent War". While almost every shot in the film is praiseworthy, the best have got to be his framing of Zhou Xun and Tony Leung's walk in the forest, two lone figures surrounded by greenery. Another scene would be how the final act revolving He Bing is built up, through faded and fuzzy overlaying scenes that incite us viewers to think instead of straight-out assuming we are stupid.

A great disappointment by the "Infernal Affairs" man's high standards, but for everyone else, "The Silent War" is a visually striking film, that which the price of admission is more than justified by Hong Kong's 'It' man, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai's charisma and performance.

Cinema Online, 09 August 2012

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TSW won "Best Costume Designer" at the Asian Film Awards today!

Water which is too pure has no fish.
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