This sort of Spartan pursuit narrative (co-adapted by Quan Yongxian and Zhang) is as relentless as it is grim: the characters’ stories are left out in otherwise negligible dialogue exchanges, and there are only a few moments. humor soothing tensions. I’m not entirely convinced that there is more to “Cliff Walkers” beneath its captivating glass surfaces. But maybe there is no need, not when Zhang and his co-workers seem to have accomplished everything they set out to do.
Surely you could hope for more from this suggestive period drama. But the creators of “Cliff Walkers” rarely give viewers enough time to process what they’re watching, as much of Yongxian’s storyline involves moving characters from one location to another.
Yongxian’s story is not personal, as it is ultimately about martyrdom and utilitarian self-sacrifice. These superhuman values are put forward as soon as the Chinese spies crash into a snowy forest in Manchoukuo. They split into two teams, immediately pulling away from their romantic partners to make sure they only got their minds on their mission.
The married couple Xianchen (Yi Zhang) and Yu (Hailu Qin) go their separate ways without complaint – although they decide that “whoever makes him sends for our children” – as well as the young lovers Chuliang (Yawen Zhu) and Lan ( Haocun Liu). “Sorry,” Chuliang said to Lan before they parted ways (but after he tried to kiss her). “I didn’t think we would be separated.” She looks surprised, but doesn’t respond otherwise.
There’s a little more to the villains in the movie, but not a lot. In a first scene, a small group of Japanese officials warm up by circulating a tin gourd. After that, they execute a group of Chinese political prisoners. The Japanese don’t seem to care about their terrified victims or their daunting task. In fact, the Japanese only really come to life when they spit alcohol on the trembling Chinese spies. It is an energizing ritual for the Japanese; or at least that’s how it’s presented, without any other contextualizing information. The impassive demeanor of the Japanese soldiers speaks as clearly to them as the reflex and stoic actions of Xianchen and Chuliang. So the pursuit that follows – the Japanese are trying to use Chuliang’s team to lure Xianchen and Yu – is for the most part unambiguous, although we sometimes don’t know who is working with the Japanese, or if they will be discovered. by Chinese spies. The action is often the thing in “Cliff Walkers”.