The Crossing Part 1: Romance, Conflict and Dramatic in Asian blockbusters

John Woo’s historical disaster epic gets off to a rickety start with this uneven first installment.

Four years since he last sat on the director’s chair. John Woo makes his return with The Crossing Part I (Titanic Dong Phuong). The first of two films based on the tragic 1949 sinking of the Taiping. A Chinese steamer bound for Taiwan. Written by Wang Hui Ling (Lust, Caution). The epic drama features an international cast of superstars including Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster). Kaneshiro Takeshi (Wu Xia). Song Hye Kyo (My Brilliant Life). Huang Xiaoming (American Dreams in China). Tong Dawei (Dearest) and Nagasawa Masami (Wood Job).

Despite a conspicuous lack of ocean-bound action. The Crossing Part 1 is awash with romance, conflict and drama as Woo positions his major players on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in anticipation of the fateful sailing. An internationally celebrated cast of Asian performers including Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Huang Xiaoming bring weight to a well-balanced script from Lust, Caution scribe Wang Hui-ling, and top drawer technical credentials across the board ensure The Crossing will be a major player at the Asian box office through the holiday season.

On 27 January, 1949, the Chinese steamer the Taiping (from which Woo’s films take their Chinese title), departed Shanghai on route to Keelung, Taiwan. Licensed to carry fewer than 600 passengers, reports put the vessel’s actual headcount at over 1,500 that night, most of whom were refugees fleeing the advances of Communist forces through China. Sailing after curfew with its lights extinguished, the Taiping struck a smaller cargo ship and sank, taking almost all passengers and crew down with her.

The Crossing Part 2 will be more dramatic

The Crossing Part 1 (phim hay thuyet minh 2020) is by its very nature a somewhat unsatisfying viewing experience. Ending as it does not so much on a cliffhanger as eclipsed by the spectre of looming disaster. Without seeing the concluding chapter it is impossible to determine whether or not it was necessary to cleave the project in two, or whether a single hour’s worth of what is presented here would be ample set-up for what follows. On its own, The Crossing Part 1 manages to be more than simply a two-hour tease. But falls short of being a whole-hearted return to form from John Woo. The film certainly delivers as star-laden festive entertainment. But as just the latest in a long line of Chinese war-time epics, one feels The Crossing will need the fireworks of Part 2 to truly rise above the competition.

Producer: Terence Chang

Screenplay: John Woo, Wang Huiling, Su Chao Bin, based on a story by Wang Huiling

Cinematography: Zhao Fei

Editor: David Wu

Production designer: Horace Ma

Music: Taro Iwashiro

Second unit director: Bruce Law

Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Song Hye-kyo, Huang Xiaoming, Tong Dawei, Masami Nagasawa

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