The Silent War (2012)

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Released 2-Jan-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Thriller Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 115:05
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Felix Chong
Alan Mak
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Xun Zhou
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Mavis Fan
Xuebing Wang
Yong Dong
Lap-Man Sin
Wai Lam
Carrie Ng
Henry Fong
Ru Bai
Tingting Gan
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Kwong Wing Chan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Here comes another interesting film from Asia, of which there have been a lot lately. This one (which is from Hong Kong) has not been particularly widely publicised despite being from the makers of the Infernal Affairs trilogy and starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai who many will know from classics such as Hero, Red Cliff and his lead role in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution. This one is set in the early 1950s, just as China was transitioning from Republican rule under Chiang Kai-Shek to Communist rule under the People's Liberation Army of Mao Zedong. It is a spy thriller with a romantic love triangle at its core. The story is based on a novel rather than fact and truthfully is somewhat fanciful.

†††† The plot revolves around a secret service agency under the communists called the 701 Bureau (which probably never really existed) who are responsible for wiretapping communications between republican agents and then using their field agents to bring them to justice. For no apparent reason, all the channels they have been monitoring suddenly go quiet and they have great trouble getting onto the right frequency. One of the field agents is the beautiful Zhang Xuening (Xun Zhao). She is assigned the task of going and getting a famous piano tuner, Luo from Shanghai, in order to use his superior listening skills to find the right channels again. When she arrives at the theatre where he is tuning a piano he is set upon by a gang of criminals, seemingly because of the affair he has been carrying on with one of their wives. Instead of Luo she brings back Luo's blind assistant, He Bing (Leung) who it turns out has even better hearing than his boss. They quickly train him to understand radio operation and Morse code and set him to the task of finding the missing channels. He is phenomenally successful and helps to undercover numerous enemy agents. He begins to develop feelings for Zhang but also for Shen Jing (Mavis Fan), another 701 bureau operative. A three way love triangle ensues as they search for the nationalist spy leader in mainland China.

†††† There is a lot to like about this film. It is stylish, beautifully shot and quite atmospheric. The acting is of high quality and the costumes are excellent. The story and setting are interesting and different. In many ways it is reminiscent of Lust, Caution, obviously aided by Leung in the lead role. Unfortunately, the whole package does not reach the heady heights of that significantly superior film. This film is let down by some pacing issues where the middle act of the film moves quite slowly and also a sometimes disjointed narrative which needs more exposition at times. The final third of the film is definitely worth waiting for as it gets very good towards the end. There are also some story issues where character actions don't seem to quite make sense. Some of the issues I have mentioned are added to by the quality of the English subtitles on this DVD which on various occassions are hard to understand due to a combination of some grammatical errors, speed of the subtitles flashing past, the complexity of the dialogue and the lack of exposition. This improves when you understand the story better (like when you watch the film more than once) however does have an impact on watchability when you first see the film. The first scene is a good example where a combination of a hard to understand sequence and lack of exposition is exascerbated by some subtitling errors. There are other examples at 11:04, 12:09-12:18, 19:55-19:57, 37:45 - 37:48, 39:00 - 39:06 and 50:35 - 50:39. None of these are huge problems by themeselves but there is an additive effect with a film which is challenging to understand for English speaking audiences. This does not mean that the effort taken to watch this film is not worthwhile as it certainly is.

†††† This film feels like it could have been and should have been much better than it is. It is certainly still of interest to fans of Asian cinema but it could have been so much more.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† The video quality is quite good.

†††† The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

†††† The picture was quite clear and sharp throughout for DVD. Shadow detail was excellent.

†††† The colour was very good, showing off the costumes and settings.

†††† Artefacts included quite a bit of aliasing and some motion blur.

†††† There are subtitles in English which can be hard to understand especially on first viewing of the film.

†††† There is a layer change at 68:20 which causes a minor pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† The audio quality is very good.

†††† This disc contains a Cantonese soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 plus a Mandarin track in the same format. The soundtracks are front focused.

†††† Dialogue seemed clear and easy to hear and understand.

†††† The music is orchestral by Kwong Wing Chan and is very dramatic getting to the point of being over the top at times. I understand what they were going for but itís just a little too much.

†††† The surround speakers are used for atmosphere mostly and some mild surround effects.

†††† The subwoofer supports the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††† No significant extras.

Menu

†††† The menu included music.

Theatrical Trailer (2:02)

†††† Chinese trailer.

Other Eastern Eye Trailers

††††Four other film trailers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† From a DVD perspective, the only other global edition at this point is a Hong Kong edition which includes English subtitles. It seems very similar to our local release. There is also a Hong Kong Blu-ray version. May as well buy local for DVD. There is no local Blu-ray version.

Summary

†††† A classily shot, acted and produced film which loses its way from a story perspective.

†††† The video quality is quite good.

†††† The audio quality is very good.

†††† The extras are buried in an unmarked grave in Southern China.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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