© Senator/Central

U.S.A./China 2010

Opening 15 Sep 2011

Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Writing credits: Hossein Amini
Principal actors: John Cusack, Li Gong, Yun-Fat Chow, David Morse, Ken Watanabe

This old-fashioned war story plays in Shanghai, in 1941, four months before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and occupy Shanghai. The pre-war atmosphere is tense and dark in a city full of mysterious shoot-outs, attacks, running figures, and blood on the streets. The Americans, British, Japanese, and Chinese interact as important members of high-society during the day, and revert to double lives with uncertain agendas at night. This is a place where one does not turn in his weapon at the door. One such person leading a double life is Paul Soames (John Cusack). He pretends to be a journalist working for the Herald newspaper while actually investigating the murder of his friend Connor. Soames has an affair with Leni (Franka Potente), wife of a German diplomat, before turning to Anna (Gong Li), wife of Anthony, a Chinese big-wig. In her double life, she is an underground revolutionist, who protects Sumiko, a Japanese girl who was sleeping with Connor as well as Captain Tanaka, while spying on both of them. Sometimes it’s so complicated that I wonder if even the script writer, Hossein Amini, knows where it will all end. As one character says, “do what you do with a puzzle: stare at it until it makes sense.” Good advice to anyone confused after five minutes.

This is a classic story (crowds pushing to board a train, ships silently slipping into the harbor, opium dens, rickshaws, casinos and antique phones and cars). It was actually filmed in Bangkok, after China withdrew permission to set up in Shanghai one week before filming was to start. The director is Danish Mikael Håfström. Pianist Lang Lang provides the background music. John Cusack is such a baby-faced boy that he seems too soft for hard action, but he obviously had fun outguessing the enemy and finally running away with Gong Li. (Becky Tan)

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