Shanghai Movie Review


Shanghai is an epic looking thriller that follows the story of Paul Soames played by John Cusack as a Naval Intelligence Office who winds up in Shanghai to visit his friend Conner.  When Soames arrives, he finds Conner has been murdered, and he wants to know why.  Picking up where Conner left off, Paul looks to find out who killed his friend and why using his journalist persona as cover.  Along the way Paul befriends local crime boss Anthony Lan-Ting played by Chow Yun Fat and his wife Anna played by Gong Li, and finds that not everything is as it seems with the close but distant couple, who have major sway in the city.

The story itself is set in the backdrop of Shanghai before the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and mixes in elements of uprising, rebellion, power and corruption while Japan and China struggled for power back in the 1940’s.  The acting is great all round, Cusack is believable in his role and is in pretty much scene in the movie, so it’s a good thing he does a great job.  Chow Yun Fat is excellent as the mob boss and always adds something special to all the scenes he is in, either a subtle nuance or a look that truly explains his character.  Gong Li is also great as the romantic interest for Paul, who still obviously loves her husband but is also at odds with him, and has her own agenda.  I cant forget to mention Captain Kanaka, played by Ken Watanabe who after the opening scene will have you thinking he’s the bad guy, but Watanabe brings some delicacy in later scenes through the great script and we find out he’s might now be the real bad guy.

As I mentioned before Shanghai is definitely epic looking, and director Mikael Hafstrom who always has a nice visual look to his movies really does the business here, the slow, depth heavy scenes of Shanghai are stunning and the gloomy interiors and party scenes are also visually impressive.  Hafstrom and the Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme who also teamed up on 1408, definitely get the thumbs up when it comes to the visuals in Shanghai, the movie looks fantastic and is totally believable.

luckily Shanghai isn’t an epic in every sense, it had the potential to be but luckily the story is tight and well paced, there are no epic lingering flashbacks and everything ticks along at a good pace, which is something I far prefer than the director trying to lay on just how epic a movie is, by using old and outdated techniques.  This is definitely my favourite movie so far from Mikael Hafstrom and is just a really interesting movie.   If you like film noir, then your going to love Shanghai, its paced well, has great action and direction and doesn’t try to hard.