September 24, 2010 6:20:15 pm
In late 1941,Paul Soames,a US naval intelligence agent,is sent to Shanghai to investigate the death of his good friend Connor. Soames narrates a series of intriguing events,which deal with crossed loyalties and flimsy alliances. Working undercover as a journalist with pro-Nazi sentiments,he gets to the upper echelons of German society in the city,with a little help from Ann Muller,and from there,linking himself up with the Germans new ally,Japan.
For Paul,theres more than meets the eye each step of the way in his investigations. Soon he finds himself on the verge of discovering something large,with a hint on the sinister plans that might be hidden under the cloak of misinformation. For local triad leader Anthony Lan-Ting,his wife Anna seems to be there when needed to entertain his guests,or disappear without qualms when hes in the company of his mistresses. Theres always suspicion that shes hiding something and is more than the elegant seductress that shes made out to be. Paul gets enamoured by her charms,and the Japanese intelligence officer Tanaka is ever keen to break her cover.
Intrigue and double-cross are the films main- stay. The film culminates with mayhem of the Pearl Harbour attack and its reaction on the international community of Shanghai,while Anna,Paul,Tanaka and Lan-Ting play out their own drama.
Shanghai is an elegantly-mounted film that faithfully recreates the period. The only unclear aspect is the genre as the film is a muddle of romance,political thriller and historical drama. Director Mikael Hafstrom and writer Hossein Amini havent risen to the occasion; Shanghai will not make it to the lists of war- time classic stories.
John Cusack delivers perfectly well. The rest of the cast looks like the panorama of Asian film talent. It reunites Hong Kongs Chow Yun-Fat with Chinas Gong Li after Zhang Yimous Curse Of The Golden Flower and Japanese stars Ken Watanabe and Rinko Kikuchi in small roles. All of them well-known names,lend their star-power to the film and deliver stellar performances.
On the whole, Shanghai is a recommended ensemble film that has a strong underlying romance that highlights the frustrations of love,and that of survival in a black,white and grey world.
RATING: One for direction and script. One for performances. One for overall production.
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