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Reviews & Ratings for
Aftershock More at IMDbPro »Tang shan da di zhen (original title)

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67 out of 81 people found the following review useful:

A Nutshell Review: Aftershocks

Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
29 July 2010

In some ways, Aftershock as a big budgeted epic sort of plays out like Feng Xiaogang's Assembly, with the money shots concentrated in the first few minutes, followed by a masterful treatment of human drama against an historical backdrop of events in China. As a fan of Feng's films thus far, he continues to show that he's equally adept in handling commercial, studio tentpole films like this one, and smaller, more intimate films like If You Are The One, dealing with equal ability a cast of plenty, or just a handful.

Aftershock cuts to the chase and puts the audience smack into 1976 Tangshan, China, just about when the big quake struck. We're introduced to a family of four, where soon enough Mother Nature's unforeseen wrath swallows up the entire city, and shattering countless of lives and families in the process. What follows will set the stage for the entire two more hours to come, where Yuan Ni (Xu Fan) has to make that Sophie's Choice of which twin for the rescuers to save - son Da Feng, or daughter Fang Deng - since a beam separates the two. Tradition, culture and custom will unfortunately make this a no-brainer when push comes to shove, coupled with the fact that the death of her husband in rescuing her, and her role as the dutiful wife to ensure the preservation of the family line, but worst, this decision is made within earshot of Fang Deng who's fighting for her life in the rubble.

Heaven's compassion means Fang Deng survives the ordeal nonetheless, but gets picked up by a PLA soldier and sent to a survivor's camp, where she gets adopted into a foster family (Chen Jin and Chen Daoming in excellent form here as foster mom and dad respectively). The narrative then tangents into two halves, one following the grown up Da Feng (Li Chen), and the other Fang Deng (Zhang Jingchu), in their trials and tribulations of growing up in China in the last 30 years, interspersed with shots of a growingly vibrant Tangshan (and other cities of China) where we see the economic development of the country. However, Nature still is that unfortunate leveller, and for all the technological advancement, human emotions and a mother's love still continue to form the basis of a heart-wrench when dealt with an unfair card in life.

Based upon a novel, What works here are the many small subplots that get introduced, such as teenage romance, filial piety, and essentially the all important theme of family, that merges well with the inclusion of landmark events such as Chairman Mao's death, and another more recent quake that brings characters together. What more, all the cast members gave stellar performances (Save for the token Caucasian) that will tug at your heartstrings, and enable the melodramatic, emotional finale to be all the more powerful as we come to learn how bitterness and hatred accumulated over the years, can dissipate with the passage of time, and the opportunity presented to seek forgiveness.

Which somehow the editing seemed to give way under the weight of emotions, and introduced some abrupt cuts away from scenes you'd think will linger for a more emotional closure. However, art direction from costuming to sets here are superb in capturing the look and feel depicting the different eras from the 70s to the 90s, and brought to mind other similarly crafted dramas like Heaven Eternal, Earth Everlasting and Electric Shadow, both films that you should give a watch as well should you dig powerful dramas like Aftershock.

I can't attest to how great this film would have been on a larger than life IMAX screen simply because Singapore, for all our record movie attendance, we still find it not viable to have one (we had one before), but one thing's for sure, the special effects employed here is on par with what Hollywood can dish out. While Hollywood can serve exaggeration for that wow factor (think 2012 where everything falls apart), Feng employs digital effects prudently to ensure that the emotional aspect doesn't get neglected. For all the individuals affected by the Big Quake, one will actually feel for them when they get pulverized, and it's hard not to be saddened when you realize it's actually all very futile when the ground beneath you starts swallowing everything. As one character said in the film, there's no worry if it's a small quake, and if it's a big one there'll be no escape anyway. It's this exasperation and resignation from a survivor that succinctly explains not only the physical scars, but the emotional ones as well that lingers far longer with the survivors, coming close to becoming pangs of guilt.

So don't go in expecting a special effects extravaganza like what Hollywood will do. An earthquake doesn't last for that long, but the emotional journey of family members set apart by a catastrophic event goes on for much longer. Aftershock is that film set on the right path in choosing to focus on this aspect, and delivered a film rich in the human emotions of pain, distress and suffering. Highly recommended, and a natural inclusion to the shortlist of this year's best.

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54 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

From a new fan of Chinese cinema

Author: georgecruz from Florida, USA
30 July 2010

After reading the other very eloquent and well thought of reviews posted so far I believe there is little I can ad to this string. That is, unless I can express my view as a true outsider of Chinese cinema and relatively inexperienced at your beautiful culture.

It's nearly impossible to find words to describe quickly I was sucked into the plot and became a member of the family of four portrayed in this masterpiece. I was in awe of the human tragedy this earthquake was and the amazing technology used to recreate it. However, nothing could have possibly prepared me for the tragic, sad, warm and beautiful human drama that would follow.

I was hoping to say I enjoyed this as much as or even more than any other movie. However, I have never experienced a movie that I can even begin to compare this to. This is a masterpiece and treasure.

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42 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

HK Neo Reviews: Aftershocks

Author: ( from Australia
15 August 2010

An epic disaster picture, disguised with a special human core...

Aftershocks works because it believed in the simple message about human lives – value. In the midst of today's world, people always conjure on the negatives, rather than the positives in our lives. For a moment of two, we forget about the person next to you, and focuses on the troubles that surrounds us. Ultimately, Aftershock is a movie about human survival and it works not because of the impact of the earthquake, but how human beings deal with the aftermath of an extraordinary earthquake. Director Feng Xiaogang delivers an epic that is not about special effects, but one that touches the very essence of a human heart by tackling important themes like survival, how one deal with death, love, life and ultimate sacrifice. Aftershocks is a highly successful film, that manages to be commercially saleable and also extremely humane. In doing justice to the victims, it is certainly aren't easy, but somehow, Feng manages to engage, express and emotes.

Zhang Jingchu is a wonderful actress. Her main strength is the ability to make a character performance so believable yet human, is almost extraordinary. In saying that she is the central to the success of this film, will be an overstatement, but without her, Feng would not be so successful. Look no further than the scenes when she faces her mum again, after 32 years for a moment of heart to heart cinematic performance. The highlight for me is most certainly the person who played Jet Li's Hero, in the class of Chen Daoming. While he was subtlety cunning in Hero as the first emperor of China, Chen is all class and humane as the caring fostering father of Zhang. His portray of the fatherly role is fitting and steals the show with his glaring eyes. His moments of anger are a joy to watch, along with his interaction with his wife and daughter.

All in all, Aftershock is the blockbuster Chinese epic of the year and to wipe internal tears from my heart, Feng have created something very special. It is not a easy job to satisfy both Chinese censors and still manages to create something worthy of our 5 senses. Feng knows the impending audience and smartly delivers what is essential a human drama about the aftermath of a devastating event. In the journey of their survival and seeing how every one of these characters due with life in their own way, allows us to re-think, re-evaluate, refresh and re-value the very essence of our own lives. It isn't so bad and it's good to be alive and loved. Most certainly the Chinese blockbuster, not to be missed...(Neo 2010)

I rate it 10/10


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39 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

I don't understand a word of Chinese, but this is definitely the best movie i have seen in YEARS!

Author: AbhiChatterjee from United States
22 August 2010

"god! you BASTARD!" wow... that scene took my breath away. i actually had to snap out of the movie for a second and make myself realize that i'm watching a movie, and its not real! (atleast not for me. but to imagine people actually go through such emotions in times like this makes you feel nauseous.) what an amazing movie! i only saw the 1st hour of it for time restraints... but i cannot wait to finish it. nothing i've seen in recent years compares to this movie. i don't know a word of Chinese, but the acting is just superb. i was reluctant to watch a movie in a language i don't understand, especially reading reviews about it being a "heart-felt" and "touching" movie; i'm so glad i didn't skip this one. brilliant!brilliant! brilliant!

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

This movie is nothing short of spectacular...

Author: Paul Magne Haakonsen from Denmark
29 December 2011

When I bought this movie from Amazon, I believed it to be a disaster movie in the likes of Hollywood movies such as "Volcano", "2012" and such. And the cover and text on the back of the cover didn't really let on to what this movie was, it all just showed something of a typical disaster movie.

So I wasn't prepared for what was ahead. Also because I hadn't done any research of reviews prior to buying (and watching) the movie. So I was in for one big surprise. There are those rare moments when you stumble upon something truly unique by sheer luck, and this was one such moment for me.

"Aftershock" blew me away. This movie is so much more than your average disaster movie. Sure there is a breathtakingly amazing disaster scene early on in the movie. And you just sit there with your hands clenched and biting your lip, because that whole part is so intense and so amazingly shot. It is like you are there right in the midst of the chaos. I will go as far as saying that the earthquake scene in this movie far outshines any of that I have seen in Hollywood disaster movies.

But "Aftershock" is not just a disaster movie, it is also a movie that has a very touching story to tell, a very sad and unfortunate story as well. But it tell its story in a very good way, without being too much. You really get immersed in the story, and it sweeps you off your feet and takes you along on an emotional roller-coaster ride. You might actually want to have some tissue at hand, because there are some very, very emotional scenes in this movie. It is also a story of emotions; a story of how our lives and fates can change in the blink of an eye.

The characters in "Aftershock" are very believable and they are so well portrayed on the screen by the actors and actresses. Each and every of the main characters are given so much room to grown and develop that you really get to feel with them, grow with them, feel their sadness, loss and happiness. And for this, the director was right on the money. This story was so well-told and well-shot that it is hard not to get caught up in the moment.

The 130 minutes that the movie is in length doesn't feel that long, because you get so caught up in the movie. I didn't leave the screen for a single moment. I just sat there mesmerized, wanting to see what happened next, what would happen to Fang Deng, Fang Da and everyone else.

I am a big fan of Asian cinema, though I had never heard about this movie prior to finding it by sheer luck on Amazon. Now that I have seen it, "Aftershock" will stay with me for a long, long time. It was one of the most emotional and honest stories I have had the pleasure of witnessing in a long, long time.

Even if you are not a fan of Asian cinema or have a phobia of watching movies in a foreign language, you should overcome that and do yourself the pleasure of sitting down to watch this movie, because it is really worth it. This movie is truly an amazing one, and it the story is one that deserves to be told.

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Afterhshock - it leaves you with the aftertaste of a masterpiece

Author: thomvic from Australia
30 August 2011

Aftershock is one of those movies where you really feel the experience and journey of all your characters for the length of its time and really connect with the characters. Even those who don't understand Chinese (myself included) will connect with the human story and its wonderful drama, not to mention some amazing visual effects at the beginning.

I'm not going to go into the plot of the film but it is essentially a very real human family drama that deals with the pain of continuing to live with guilt and having to restore one's life after a tragedy. It may sound familiar but the beauty of Aftershock is that its emotional core is something it never shies away from. You see and feel the journey of all three central characters and how a natural disaster can shape our destinies and change our perspectives on ourselves and those around us.

While you can sort of see the plot unfolding before it gets there in the end, it is essentially what you want. I really cared about these characters so anything less than what you would expect would have been even more harrowing. But the resolution which seems to solve everything yet still leaves an emptiness is remarkable.

This is a film not to be missed. I was almost in tears by the end of the film - it has been one of the most captivating films I have seen in a long time and is a remarkable piece of cinema. Not to be missed.

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18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Act of Forgiving and Reconciliation

Author: swieyue from Singapore
1 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was a little skeptical before viewing this film as to whether director Feng Xiao Gang could pull off a theme that literally begs to be a cinematic spectacle of special effects. I had the impression they would add surround speakers all around the theatre to give us that sensurround earth shaking experience.

Feng did none of that. Instead, he gives us a masterfully crafted story of a mother's love torn between saving only one of her son or daughter, born as twins, trapped under the same pillar during the devastating earthquake of Tangshan in 1976. She chooses to save her son. She tearfully hugs her daughter she thinks is already dead in an emotional farewell before leaving with her son for a safe medical shelter. The repercussion of that fateful decision has a profound emotional effect on the mother and her siblings.

Unable to overcome the guilty conscience of her decision, the remorseful mother lives a life of self-imposed solitude in a small house in Tangshan, afraid to move out because she thinks her daughter's soul may not find her again, and also for her husband who died saving her life in the earthquake.

Unknowingly to the mother, her daughter, given up for dead and laid beside her dead father, wakes up from her unconscious coma state. Traumatized and shocked by her mother's decision, she stood up and wonders about aimlessly on the street laid with corpses. The feeling of being totally abandoned must have strike right through her fragile heart as she is dumbed and unable to talk for a long time. A kind couple from the army decides to adopt her. Slowly, she regains her confidence and her speech, but the anger and bitterness remain etched deep in her heart. She grows up without ever wanting to look for her mother again. To her, the memory of her mother giving the only persimmon left on the plate to her brother on the night the earthquake hits is yet another sign that her mother favours son over her. Even the promise by her mother to buy her more persimmons the next day does nothing to dispel that suspicion.

Many years later, in 2008, the Sichuan earthquake produces another tragedy on a massive scale. Brother and sister are there as volunteers. There, at a rest point, she hears a man, who turns out to be her brother, recounting his mother's anguish about having to choose between saving either son or daughter in the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. It is then that she realizes that her mother feels equally painful about losing her than she is bitter about being given up in favour of her brother.

The act of forgiveness and reconciliation between mother and daughter comes at the end in a highly charged emotional climax. As she enters her mother's home, right on the table below the portraits of herself and her dead father, is a plate full of persimmons. Her mother tells her she still remembers to buy the persimmons she has promised her. Tears flowed freely from my eyes watching this scene.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A movie not to be missed

Author: warzouing from Canada
31 October 2010

I watched a subbed version of this movie and the first few minutes remind me of Hollywood sensational movie and I was about to end the viewing. I'm very glad that I did not do it because otherwise I have missed one of the best movies I have watched so far. The emotion just goes up in you until it hit a peaks then it starts going down calmly to have a good ending. Do not let the English title of the movie misleads you, the movie is much much more than about the earthquake or natural disaster itself, it's about the human's nature, how they dealt with difficult situations. The earthquake is just pretext and it can be anything tragic like war, exodus, deportation etc...Remember "Sophie's choice" ?

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

An intimate portrait of resilience and hope in the aftermath of life's unexpected calamities that turns out immensely moving

Author: moviexclusive from Singapore
17 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Feng Xiaogang's "Aftershock"- based on the Tangshan earthquake on July 28, 1976 that measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and claimed 240,000 people- isn't your typical disaster movie. It isn't out to wow you with the scale of the disaster- indeed, there is no need, for the numbers speak for themselves. It isn't out to showcase the latest special effects- Hollywood has done enough of that with "2012". What it does is paint an intimate portrait of how a family devastated by the quake attempts to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

Dad (played by Zhang Guoqiang) is a factory worker, Mom (played by Feng's own wife, Xu Fan) is a seamstress, and Fang Deng and Fang Dan are their kids, one boy and one girl, and twins for that matter. The quake leaves Dad dead, and Mom caught in an impossible dilemma. Fang Deng and Fang Dan have been pinned under one giant concrete block, and the rescuers tell her she has to sacrifice one in order to save the other. She chooses the son, unaware that her daughter did not perish.

Fang Deng is eventually adopted by a childless couple, both husband and wife in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) who helped out in the subsequent rescue effort. She grows up as Wang Deng (played by Zhang Jingchu), but her new identity doesn't erase the scar of her mother's decision to let her die. Meanwhile, Fang Dan grows up as a slightly impetuous teenager who leaves Tangshan to find his own fortune in the neighbouring bigger cities with his friends. Even after Fang Dan returns a successful businessman with his wife and newborn son, Mom refuses to leave her Tangshan home- she believes that she needs to guide the souls of her late husband and daughter back.

Unfolding over a period of 30 years, Feng leads his audience closely into the parallel lives of Fang Deng and Fang Dan- until the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 which brings them back together. The events of their lives in between these 30 years aren't particularly remarkable- Fang Deng or Fang Dan don't become some national heroes after their ordeal- and very often it feels like they feel like they could have happened to any other person. But it is precisely because of their unassuming quality that makes them all the more credible and poignant.

Indeed, the film portrays Fang Deng and Fan Dang as no more than ordinary citizens trying to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives, albeit forever imprinted with the trauma of the disaster. Theirs is a story of resilience and a call of hope, not just for the people of Tangshan who survived the quake that year, but also for the people out there whose lives and families have been wrecked by disasters, to stand up and stand strong. Of course, coming two years after the even more devastating Sichuan earthquake, its voice is especially resounding for a country still reeling from the magnitude of the calamity.

Feng's film needs to be seen in this light- it is a fictional story set against real events- and therefore threads a tightrope between fact and fiction, a tightrope of wounded hearts and lives. Kudos to Feng for accomplishing a film that is respectful but never condescending, empathetic but never manipulative, so that while the subject matter may be heavy handed, his film always finds the right balance to give the proceedings both gravity and optimism.

Still, one can't help but feel that Feng, better known for his hit romantic comedies like "If You Are the One", is slightly out of his league. Despite generous help from visual effects experts including Lord of the Rings' Weta to recreate the quake, Feng lets these scenes unfold with little continuity, so the raison d'être for this to be China's first IMAX film becomes non sequitur. He also films the aftermath of the quake with misty-eyed sentimentality- using slow-mo shots and a mournful score- that threatens to become overly maudlin.

It is therefore a good thing that "Aftershock" soon moves away from being a disaster film to a film about the people moving on from the disaster. Feng Xiaogang has always displayed a careful attention to the characters and their relationships in his films, and once again demonstrates that flair here in creating characters that his audience can not only identify, but also empathise with in their joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations, hopes and anxieties. When Fang Deng and Fang Dan are finally reunited in a tearful reunion, only the hardest of hearts will not be moved

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

One of the best, saddest films.

Author: Shaoxiong from Australia
19 April 2011

As i sit here typing up this review, my eyes are sore from the tears shed from watching this stunning film. This is no ordinary documentary like film. The characters are portrayed in a way that establishes a deep connection with the audience, the actors/actresses in this this film were absolutely flawless. The emotions, gestures and dialogue were all perfect.

Apart from complimenting the set, the movie had great computer generated scenes of the devastating effects of the earthquake. This really puts the audiences in a perspective like never before , as u see the people being smashed by boulders and collapsing buildings with people inside.

This movie focuses on the main idea of FAMILY. It shows the bonding of natural disaster victims and the the journey of recovering from the emotional wounds.

This movie was a master piece. I highly recommend it.

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