7/10 Due to this film being the 3rd highest grossing film worldwide in 2020 (this year continues to be unpredictable), I figured I would see what all of the hype was about, as this film has been a massive success in China, where it originated from. I love stories about historical battles where one side is heavily outnumbered, knowing they can’t win but standing their ground and fighting to the last man for their cause. We’ve seen this in films like “300” and “The Alamo” and even fictionally in certain battles from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy at various points. “The Eight Hundred” happens to follow a real historical event I had never heard of, involving 20,000 Japanese troops and 452 Chinese troops (they lied and said there were 800 of them as to not reveal how small they really were compared to the Japanese). The details of the battle, how many days it lasted, how it ended, the location being a warehouse (which you can now visit as a museum commemorating the battle), etc. were all fascinating and I enjoy when historical films educate the audience, as this one does. However, I will admit when the film started I was nervous because out of every film I’ve ever watched in my entire life, this film has the fastest subtitles ever. There is opening text onscreen at the beginning of the film and closing text onscreen just before the credits and I was only able to read 2/3 of both of them. The individual lines of dialogue had the subtitles coming and going so fast that it was a real struggle to keep up. If two characters were communicating in battle but there were also people yelling in the background, we would get subtitles for not only the two main actors but every background line of dialogue as well which meant there were so many lines of dialogue and subtitles to go along with them that you’d have to have your eyes on the subtitles, struggling to keep up and not have a moment to look up and see what’s happening in the movie or who is saying these lines. Moments with little dialogue became a Godsend so you could look up from the bottom of the screen and see what was going on. The problem is at its worst in the beginning, where the heaviest dialogue is but the problem lasts the entire film. In addition to the subtitles moving way too fast, there were a few spelling/grammatical errors in the subtitles. For example, one line of the English subtitle read, “I couldn’t fell asleep last night” or something very similar to that. There were a couple of lines that were incorrect and simply having someone who spoke English as their primary language proof reading each subtitle could have easily fixed that problem. Besides the subtitles being the biggest problem, another issue includes the two-and-a-half-hour film going on too long and needing to trim the fat in a few scenes. You could have made this film two hours and ten minutes long and it would have been just as effective. Finally, a creek/bridge divides where the battle was taking place from the civilian side on the opposite end of the bridge and this contrast was extremely fascinating. The problem was that it wasn’t delved into enough, the civilian side didn’t have any meaningful or impactful characters and the English speaking civilians had clunky dialogue. That being said, this is a good movie as there are several noteworthy aspects. Besides the overall plot being a fascinating one, the action scenes are extremely well directed. I had flashes of “Saving Private Ryan” and the D-Day landing opening pop into my head as the war scenes here are packed with relentless action, impressive camera work and incredible choreography. Director Hu Guan knows how to film action and the cinematography and editing are masterful here. Characters in the military are very well developed and their dialogue was strong. The score was memorable and empowering and there were some emotionally gripping moments as well. Due to the subtitles moving too quickly, I strongly recommend this to watch at home so you can pause the film and read the subtitles or rewind if you need to but despite this being a good film, I can’t recommend seeing it in theaters. It feels a little bit like a Chinese propaganda film at times but if you find yourself at home and don’t mind the long running time, “The Eight Hundred” is about 800 times better than a lot of foreign films out there today.
#ShanghaiNights / #ItsAJap! / #BringingDownTheWarehouse / #BridgeOnTheRiverZhabei / #ReceivedSanghaiMarks / #WhenTheyGoLaoWeGoHai