A historical account of a battle in the Chinese civil war, Qu Bo's 1957 novel "Tracks in the Snowy Forest" spawned the Peking opera "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy." A film adaptation by Xie Tieli ensued in 1970, followed by a
In 1946, folk hero Yang Zirong (played by Zhang Hanyu) reports for duty in Harbin but soon goes rogue and deserts his fellow People's Liberation Army troops to infiltrate the bandits — led by Hawk (Tony Leung Ka-fai) — who ruled the region.
Tsui will try anything once in 3-D. Splatters of blood travel in bullet-time, and the requisite ridiculousness — like action scenes with skis and zip-lines — characterize Tsui's work. But bookending the story with the 2015-set prologue and epilogue turns out to be his most inspired touch.
The story itself is without a trace of subtlety or ambiguity, depicting communists as virtuous, principled, altruistic and strategic. Their foes are insidious, covetous, sadistic and draconian. For audiences unaccustomed to state-controlled Chinese media, rooting for the commies is a lot to ask. So when Tsui revises and redoes the climactic showdown for the sake of entertainment value, you wonder if the Hong Kong-based filmmaker writes off the whole thing as revisionist history written by victors.
"The Taking of Tiger Mountain."
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 16 minutes.