The Message (2009) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Original Mandarin Title: 风声
Release Date: September 30, 2009
Directed by: Chen Kuo-Fu, Gao Qunshu
Language: Mandarin
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Starring: Zhou Xun, Li Bingbing, Zhang Hanyu, Huang Xiaoming, Wang Zhiwen, Alec Su You Peng, Ying Da

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, a mysterious individual called Magnum has been master-minding the deaths of numerous Japanese officers and Chinese co-conspirators. Thus, the Japanese army plan a trap to settle the score for once and for all without having their plans intervene nor further death continues.

Col. Osamu Takeda @ Wu Tian (Huang Xiaoming) forces Gu Xiaomeng (Zhou Xun) to reveal the Phantom true identity.

A false information on Commander Zhang’s location was spread, and soon the observation determine that the leak must be from the Counter-insurgency Center, staffed by a five-member team under the command of Captain Wu Zhiguo (Zhang Hanyu).

Without delay, his team is forcibly invited to be guests at a remote castle that’s opulently decorated and also possessing of a fine set of torture devices.

The Japanese authorities, led by Colonel Osamu Takeda (Huang Xiaoming) and Chief Wang (Wang Zhiwen), plan to keep Wu’s team in custody until one of them confesses to being “Phantom”, the spy who passes information to Magnum and the Resistance.

That’s when the games begin. While their captors scheme in the background, the Counter-insurgency Team proceeds to point fingers at one another.

Initially, Captain Wu seems above the fray, but becomes intense when sassy little princess Gu Xiaomeng (Zhou Xun) fingers him as a possible Phantom.

Meanwhile, the overweight Jin (Ying Da) finds himself pitted against prissy Lt. Bai (Alec Su), who’s under suspicion despite being a “special friend” of Commander Zhang.

The most reasonable member of the group is also the most vulnerable;  Li Ningyu (Li Bing-Bing) situation worsens when her boyfriend is brought in as one of Magnum’s co-conspirators.

The Phantom is also stuck within the castle with absolute no communications to his reach his resistance forces and if word doesn’t get out within five days t on Commander Zhang is a definite entrapment which could led the departure of the resistance.

Reviewer’s Note:
The Message was adapted from Mai Jia’s 2007 novel and was then put into film by Chen Kuo-Fu and Gan Qunshu. A simple action-thriller film of a “cat and mouse” chase between the Japanese and the Chinese. It’s all about loyalty to the country or traitor to the nation. The choice is simple – either one of them give in or die with the secret.

This Chinese espionage film is situated within the castle and throughout the castle whereabouts and the castle’s dungeon. There are no such castle in history, only mimicking the Reichfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler’s Wewelburg Castle – having the dungeon for interrogation with torture equipments available.

It is slow and dramatic if one could actually enjoy watching it. After all, it’s just another espionage-thriller film.

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