In 1882, Alfred Nichol, owner of the Nichol Railway Company, is building a railroad through the Canadian Rockies. He sends his irresponsible playboy son, James Nichol, to Hong Kong to check on the company's recruitment of Chinese laborers to work on the railroad's construction. One of the laborers James brings back is a orphan boy named Little Tiger. Unknown to James, Little Tiger is actually a young woman, who is masquerading as a boy to eke out a better living for herself. She is desperate to make it to Canada to find her missing father. Professionally, Little Tiger is tasked with being a tea boy to the other laborers on the construction crew, although she really wants to work on the more lucrative explosives team as, working at a firecracker factory in Hong Kong, she learned the finer details of explosives from a master. She also learns of some improprieties within the construction camp. Personally, Little Tiger falls in love with James, an unforbidden love even if she exposes her ... Written by
I'll admit that I didn't have very high expectations for this film because honestly, the Canadian film industry simply does not get enough funding and support to develop a lot of good movies.
But when I started watching Iron Road I was taken by surprise: the cinematography and art direction are unexpectedly beautiful, and the appearance of veteran actors like Sam Neill and Peter O'Toole gave gravity to the story. I found myself intrigued by the story and I eagerly followed it through both parts on CBC. True, the story is a bit predictable; true, there are some unrealistic elements and some inaccuracies; true, there could have been more focus towards the historical premise of the film (the exploitation of the Chinese). But when I considered it as a film for entertainment, I found it to be remarkably good in that aspect. I felt that a lot of story was told in a limited amount of time, and I was especially charmed by the performances of the two leads (Sun Li and Luke MacFarlane). MacFarlane brought genuine kindness and tenderness to his role, and Li played her character with exceptional strength and conviction. Tony Leung Ka Fai's excellent performance is also worth noting. If nothing else, this film is carried by the strength of its actors.
Overall: while Iron Road may not be as epic and profound as it could have been, I think the creators did a lot with very little time and succeeded in creating a small, but moving, dramatized excerpt from Canadian history.
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