Monday, January 10, 2011


John Cusack, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Chow Yun Fat,
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, David Morse

"In a world filled with secrets, solving a mystery can be murder."

Star Movies

This ambitiously cast film was mesmerizing because it was able to recreate the feel of the city of Shanghai in the 1940s. It had all the key ingredients of a film noir reminiscent of past classics from Bogart and Bacall. There were voice over narration, an intriguing plot, authentic costume design of classic cuts and tailor made suits, the clever use of flashbacks (in sepia and black and white tones) and vivid cinematography.

The story revolves around Paul Soames (John Cusack), a naval intelligence officer (aka a spy) under the disguise of a journalist who investigates the murder of his colleague/friend Conner. Conner (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was able to unmask the eerie plan of the Japanese empire in China. In his quest to find out the truth about the murder, Soames meets some interesting characters who may or may not be involved in the sinister crime. You have Anna Tan-Ling (Gong Li) who is the mysterious wife of the local gang lord Anthony Tan-Ling (Chow Yun Fat). The Triad boss has political and mafia connections with Capt. Tanaka (Ken Watanabe), the head of Japanese intelligence in Shanghai.

The multinational cast totally contributed in ensuring this grandiose production was a success. John Cusack as the protagonist exuded a Bogart vibe with his subtle and calm performance. The attractive Gong Li, as the femme fatale was sultry and mysterious. Chow Yun-Fat's portrayal of the mob boss was charming in a secretive sort of way. And of course, my favorite Asian actor Ken Watanabe as Capt. Tanaka was eerie and sinister yet quite eloquent and elegant as well. They were also finely supported by talented actors such as David Morse, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Franka Potente in brief yet significant roles.

Overall, "Shanghai" was engaging in its presentation of a complex storyline of espionage, political intrigue with some tinge of romance. It was also straightforward and easily understandable due to the talented ensemble cast.

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