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Shanghai More at IMDbPro »

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36 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Intrigue and Betrayal in a Great City

9/10
Author: ajfdomingo from Philippines
1 October 2010

Shanghai impressed me as a very well-made film. This tale of espionage and double dealing kept me hooked throughout. Shanghai compels the viewer to pay attention in order to piece together a jumble of unclear relationships and alliances. There are many acts of betrayal in the story and they unfold from start to finish. The film also gets high marks for its depiction of pre-World War II Shanghai. The audience get a good visual sense of the cosmopolitan characteristics of the city and in fact, even its delights, like its bars and casinos, compare favorably with those in other modern cities. The acting in this film deserves commendation. Though I am not much of a John Cusack fan, I found his performance believable and not overdone. Li Gong and Yun Fat-Chow are also well cast. Their demeanor came across as natural. I would recommend this film to anyone without reservation.

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41 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

An almost great film, but more importantly an excellent homage/throwback to film-noir.

6/10
Author: dvc5159 from Penang, Malaysia / Chicago, USA
22 July 2010

They sure don't make films like these anymore. Back in the 1930's - 1950's the cinemas were filled with reels of gangster/detective films shot in black and white. The days of classic films such as "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", "The Maltese Falcon" and "Touch Of Evil" were long gone. In it's place we have, today, overbudgeted, overblown films that causes today's youthful audiences to have Attention Deficit Disorder and be bored at any film that is not filled with explosions every two milliseconds. In between then and now we had many homages to film-noir that stand out on their own. Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" for instance is the best "neo-noir" film ever made and many films directed by Michael Mann also have strong noirish influences. "Shanghai", while not excellent, manages to become a good, neat little thriller on its own right, but properly includes the classic noirish themes of the 40's - 50's that gave the classic films the reputation they have now.

Granted, the script by Hossein Amini has mostly nothing new apart from the noirish elements from those other classic noir films. It's an old- fashioned American murder mystery, but set in the Far East. Familiar plot revelations take place as our hero weaves his way through a web of lies, deceit/deception, betrayal, romance, murder, corruption, and in this film's case, war. What stood out in the film's screenplay is the number of languages used in the film: English, Japanese and Chinese, although I wished the latter two were featured more prominently than they were in the final film. And I have to admit, although unoriginal, the twists in the movie are intriguing and kept my attention.

The international actors are great and fit into their roles like tailor- made suits. John Cusack as the protagonist gives off his Bogie-like character a subtle and calm performance that is also charming. Gong Li, beautiful as ever, is the main dame of the film and she has that sultry, mysterious look in her eyes that you can't take your eyes off of her. Chow Yun-Fat, finally in a role worth watching him in, is the mob boss who may or may not be on Cusack's character's side, as he adapts an extremely charming yet secretive personality under that face of his. And Ken Watanabe has that sinister vibe in him as the film's primary antagonist, though he exudes a certain class to his villainous character. Fine supporting characters played by interesting actors such as David Morse, Rinko Kikuchi, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Franka Potente round up the very distinguished and diversified cast.

Production value and cinematography are top-notch as they transport you back in time to the glamor and grit of pre-occupied Shanghai, with its well-designed and furbished sets/locations filled with plenty of real extras instead of CG ones for a nice change, and crisp, properly lighted scenes with big and wide camera angles so to appreciate the settings even more. Klaus Badelt scores the film with a proper suspenseful element to it making it feel more at home with the noirish crowd without feeling to overdone, thus also making it easier to evoke emotions in the audience, especially to those who are new to the noir genre. Thanks to Mikael Håfström for his focused direction in bringing the best out of the actors.

This is, more importantly, a throwback to the noirish days of old. This film would be a great starting point for those new to noir, and people who like thrillers should give this nostalgic time capsule a chance.

Entertainment value: 9/10

Overall: 7/10

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35 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful looking and superbly acted movie

10/10
Author: movielover0021 from anywhere
31 August 2010

I expected a lot with an international heavy weight cast like this one. All the way to the smallest characters are filled with great actors.

The cinematography is excellent and successfully recreates the feel of 40's Shanghai, along with the a secretive atmosphere that enhances the film noir mood. The story moves at a good pace where there isn't a scene too many and you have to keep your mind working to uncover the mysteries Paul Soames is trying to solve.

The excellent cast doesn't disappoint, John Cusack is solid and believable as an agent posing as a journalist. It's not hard to understand he would fall for the insanely beautiful Gong Li who seems to have found a fountain of youth somewhere. She plays the role of Anna Lan-Ting with a seductive and secretive flavor which is a joy to watch. Her husband, mob boss Anthony Lan-Ting, is being played by Hong Kong icon Chow Yun Fat who exudes charm and power but still manages to walk the fine line of a character you feel attracted to but also know you should actually stay away from. His performance adds the right amount of flair the production needs. Ken Watanabe plays out his sinister vibe along with a human grace perfectly and Jeffrey dean Morgan is believable as the friend who ended up dead.

Instead of a movie about politics and war, it's more about human relations and the different side to people. How people are used and mislead at times like this, and matters of the heart play an important role in the decisions the characters make.

If you are open to a movie that makes you think and wonder, you will definitely love 'Shanghai'.

The only thing that I did not get into was the romance-angle between John Cusack and Gong Li.... but maybe that's how it's meant to be. It's easy to see why he would fall for her but she, on the other hand, might have a whole different agenda.

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28 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A captivating drama about spies in the turbulent Shanghai in the 1940's

Author: Gordon-11 from Earth
25 August 2010

This film is about the lives of several spies from America and China in the turbulent Shanghai in the 1940's.

"Shanghai" is a mesmerising film that successfully recreates the 1940's feel of Shanghai. The film is engaging throughout, with no unnecessary scenes. It is also straightforward and easily understandable, which is a rarity for spy dramas. It is also captivating, as it beautifully captures the stress of people living deceitful lives, not knowing who to trust, without any back up. Even your best friend can be someone entirely different, befriending you only for intelligence.

Gong Li is great in "Shanghai", she radiates beauty and charm, and yet at the same time her extraordinary elegance seems to be begging for pity and mercy. She is rightly cast for her role.

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17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Captures a period well, great performances too

8/10
Author: thomvic
29 January 2011

This movie captures that period of 30's Shanghai quite well. Well I wouldn't be the best person to judge considering I know little about that time, but from what I had seen in this film, it was very intriguing.

This espionage/war film gets your attention. The plot is not too complicated, has a nice pace, good performances and an international cast. John Cusack is decent in this role, Gong Li is gorgeous as ever and her English seems to have improved. She captures the screen with her grace and beauty, but also a believable performance. Chow Yun Fat is equally as good. Ken Watanabe - a good performance though he really needs to work more on making his accent understandable as I still have a little trouble with him, but nevertheless makes a good icy character.

The last act creates the suspense very well, though I'll have to admit, though I found the ending dramatic and decent, it might have been more interesting if they actually filmed what happened instead of doing the voice-over, but hey I guess budget constraints and time can get in the way, so I'm alright with it I suppose.

This is a visual feast. It is good to see many actors of different nationalities blend in for what is a cross country story. Japan/China/Germany. Franka Potente has a role here too, which I enjoyed as well.

The only problem with the film, though it wasn't it's fault, was that the version I watched did not have English subtitles when they were talking in Chinese. At first, I thought that this was part of the movie, as you weren't meant to understand it, but there are important scenes near the end where I had no clue what they were saying. It didn't mean I didn't get the rest of the plot or what was happening, but that could have given me a bit more to work with and more juice as well. Oh well, it's not their fault.

This is an enjoyable movie, and it captures that sense of mystery, mistrust, betrayal and fear that you experience during an espionage/war film. Though this isn't essentially a war film in that it's main focus is about blowing up people etc, it is about the struggle of invasion and the effects of it. Recommended.

I hope it gets a wider release in the US and here in Australia because it is a good film.

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Holds no surprises but you can expect some commendable performances from its cast

5/10
Author: moviexclusive from Singapore
28 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What a crowd. Over at one end, we have the underrated John Cusack, who has proved that he can headline a movie with Roland Emmerich's disaster flick 2012. He plays an American who arrives in Shanghai to find himself in lots of troubles and conspiracies. Over at the other end we have two Asian mega stars Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li. Viewers may be familiar with Chow's Confucius and Captain Sao Feng (from Singapore, nonetheless), but he is also fondly known as Hui Man Keung the charismatic triad leader in the 1980 TV series The Bund, which takes place in, yes, Shanghai. Hence, it is most apt that Chow takes on the role of a vicious triad leader in this movie. Gong has stunned the Western audiences with her performances in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and Miami Vice (2006), but the most memorable and stunning performance yet (for some male audiences, at least) has to be with her bountiful assets in Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), where she plays wife of, call it a coincidence if you must, Chow. Here, she plays again plays Chow's beautiful wife, and flaunts her figure quite a bit in some scenes. Elsewhere, we have Ken Watanabe, an Oscar nominee (for Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai), who takes on the role of a shady official who has more than a few dark secrets to hide. So it is with this wonderful ensemble of actors that we have this period piece set during the years of World War II. A few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbour, these four characters in the Japanese occupied city of Shanghai come together to concoct a dangerous tale of government secrets and forbidden love. Sounds like your typical period piece with gunfights, grand sets and predictable plot developments of double crossings? Yes, it is. Director Mikael Hfstrm pulls no surprises here, treating his viewers to scene after scene of impressive set designs (expensive sets were built in London and Thailand because the Chinese authorities said no to the shoot weeks before production was set to begin), remarkable cinematography of sweeping camera angles and intricate costumes of an era now gone. While these help to satisfy the visual senses, they do not do anything more. We've seen similarly high production values elsewhere, and the "been there done that" storyline does not push the somewhat dreary pace of the movie forward. So what we have left are the cast's sure footed performances. Cusack, whom we have always loved, does a fine job here as an American who arrives in a foreign land, only to find his compatriot murdered. Through his investigations, he discovers things he isn't meant to find out. The always reliable Cusack plays this role with conviction and has us going along with the ride. Chow is an Asian icon, and his portrayal of the suspiciously treacherous triad leader is spot on. The might and valour he exudes holds the movie together. Gong, as sensuous as ever, commands the screen with her alluring voice and, ahem, her well endowed figure. Watanabe turns in a somewhat touching performance as the villain with a heart. In one scene, he shares with Cusack his past. The emotionally touching sequence will strike a chord with some romantic die hards. So will you walk away with new insights about Shanghai, which is now the bustling metropolis of China? Probably not, but be assured that you'd be wowed by the fine performances of the well directed cast.

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15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Very Thrilling War Detective

8/10
Author: denis888 from Russian Federation
2 January 2011

I have really enjoyed this excellent movie, since i love war films. This one is about a pre-Pearl Harbor Shanghai, where Japanese, Chinese, Nazi, American intelligence services clash, and it's common people who make history. John Cusack is a great choice for the main role, and he delivers his part impeccably. Being a secret agent, he is deeply sensitive and sensible man, who wants to reveal some mysteries and he is right in the whirlwind of a war craze. Other actors include Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, among others, and they all do great jobs. Japanese soldiers fight the Chinese partisans, Americans try to find out what they think will help... and all this is a dizzying background to a deep touching story of love, hate, cowardice, friendship, bravery and valor. This movie is highly recommended

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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Fascinating to watch

8/10
Author: phd_travel from United States
24 January 2011

The subject matter is interesting. There is suspense and action and romance. Too bad it didn't get a bigger box office release and reception. Some slight imperfections are there.

The cast is good. All top notch Asian actors. Chow and Watanabe add stature. Gong Li is alluring if a little older. Cusack is a bit goofy looking but blends in to the scenes well. Heard Johnny Depp was interested probably would have been worse.

The sets are bit too theatrical and lacked a little on location feel.

The story is feel good old fashioned adventure romance and not irritating. Sometimes it was hard to catch some of the dialog and because of that got a bit lost.

Overall worth watching.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

opulent throw back to the films of the golden age of film

8/10
Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
28 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this English Language film dubbed into Chinese with English subtitles on an import DVD from Chinatown.

The film stars John Cusack as an American spy in 1941 Shanghai. He's arrived from Berlin to meet up with a good friend, whom he soon learns has been murdered in the Japanese sector of the city. As the threat of war becomes less threat and more real Cusack must try and figure out what his friend was working on before it's too late.

Huge sprawling epic that's the sort of things that they don't make any more. This is an action soap opera at it's finest. Its a wonderful popcorn film that undoubtedly looks great on the big screen. Made with an international market in mind it has a great cast with Gong Li, Chow Yun Fat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Ken Wantanabe all strutting their stuff. Sadly I can't see this becoming a huge hit in the US, not because it isn't good, more because American audiences don't know what to make of films like this.

For the most part this is enjoyable in the way that the wartime films of the 1940's are. They are some what predictable, some times surprising and purely contrived in the plotting. The plotting's twists toward in the last half hour is where the film kind of skids since its connection to Pearl Harbor, and some character motivation, is a bit too much to ask.

Its a fun guilty pleasure thats worth a look see. I don't know if you need to pay full price to see it in a theater (then again this is a great looking film, but at the same time if you like this sort of epic drama try it on cable.

As for me I can't wait to see how this plays in English.

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24 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

A Nutshell Review: Shanghai

7/10
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
8 July 2010

If I were to trace my lineage, then the city of Shanghai would feature only two generations away, and having been there for the very first time only last month, I marvel at the magnificence of the city, and just about how modern development have taken place in the last 10 to 15 years with shiny new skyscrapers sprouting up on the opposite bank of the river where Old Shanghai still stands, where it's quite the experience to just stroll along the Bund to marvel at architecture of old amongst thronging crowds; if you think Singapore is bad well, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Shanghai the film happened to be a somewhat troubled project, with the shoot being blocked just weeks before production was scheduled to begin, then faced with the abandoning of sets and the relocation to Thailand and London, followed by question marks on its release date. Well, it's finally here, and I'd think it was well worth the wait, given no scrimping on its production values, and director Mikael Hafstrom splashing plenty of noir in his approach to tell a tale of spy versus spy set against Shanghai in 1941, where the city has yet to fall to the Japanese, and thus becoming a hotbed for resistance movements, with plenty of foreigners still in country setting up protective enclaves for their own citizens.

While it may be a Hollywood production, the cast was predominantly Asian, assembling some of the largest names in the region for this project. John Cusack plays the lead character Paul Soames, a naval intelligence agent sent to Shanghai to investigate the death of his good friend Connor (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and The Losers fame), whose eyes from which we witness a series of intriguing events unfold, dealing with crossed loyalties and flimsy alliances. Going under the cover of a journalist with pro-Nazi sentiments, he works his charisma and know-how to get to the upper echelons of German society in the city, and from there, linking himself up with the German's new ally, Japan.

For Paul, there's more than meets the eye each step of the way in his investigations, and soon he finds himself on the teeters of discovering something large, with a hint on the sinister plans that might be hidden under the cloak of misinformation. History buffs may know what this will allude to, but for those not in the know, then it's time to read up, and to find out from the plot as it unfolds.

But the story happens to strike a parallel with a heavy examination into human relationships, and how the ties that bind can sometimes hurt, especially during a time where the environment is extremely tensed, and nobody is truly clear of one another's motivation, and deep dark secrets. For local triad leader Anthony Lan-Ting (Chow Yun-Fat), his wife Anna (Gong Li) seems to be there when needed, yet can disappear either to entertain his guests, or do so without qualms when he's in the company of his mistresses. There's always suspicion that she's hiding something and is more than the dainty seductress that she's made out to be, especially when Paul gets enamoured by her charms, and Ken Watanabe's Japanese intelligence officer Tanaka ever keen to break her cover.

Yes, this film looks more like an Asian film, which reunites Hong Kong's Chow Yun-Fat with China's Gong Li again after their collaboration in Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower, and Japanese stars Ken Watanabe and Rinko Kikuchi even given a small role. All of them recognizable names, all of them leading their star power to the film and delivering stellar performances mostly, dealing with the double crossing of one another through an intricate web of love and betrayal, and how emotions get the better of Man eventually.

There's no one dimensional character here, with supposed villains surprisingly having a heart when protecting their loved ones against harm, and how everybody will use everything within their power to ensure that family, friends and even strangers stay safe in a time of danger, although not always leading to their desired results. For romantics, Watanabe's Tanaka even opens up in a rare demonstration that he's not always that stoic, but can also be the unwitting victim of the complicated affairs of the heart, which the finale finally assembles all the broken pieces together, and we'd come to appreciate more on what motivates these characters.

The only let down will be Chow's turn as Anthony Lan-Ting the mob boss, as his role, together with Rinko Kikuchi's, is really playing second fiddle to Watanabe in terms of charisma, and screen time compared to what Gong Li occupied here. But this is still one recommended ensemble thriller that has a strong underlying romantic thread, beautifully crafted to highlight the frustrations of love, and that of survival in a black, white and grey world.

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