The glamour of war; is being able to get out alive…
All ready a massive hit overseas in China, The Eight Hundred is a top shelf war movie that allows us to get lost in the emotions of the moments rather than on any individual character which allows the collective bravery, terror and human endurance to have a spotlight on the big screen.
The film is based on true stories taking place during Sino-Japanese war in Shanghai, China, in 1937, the battle and protection of the Si Hang Warehouse. There are around 400 soldiers (so called Eight Hundred Heroes in history), holding out against numerous waves of Japanese forces for 4 days and 4 nights.
While the nationalistic bluster around The Eight Hundred can be described as a little clunky, it really gives audiences a sense of spectacle, emotional horror and the camaraderie that comes out of having to entrust your life to the man next to you and vice versa.
From director Hu Guan, whose name you may recognize from films like Mr. Six and The Chef, The Actor and The Scoundrel has crafted something that allows us to appreciate the massive scale of the moment and the war at the time.
It’s mean…it’s dirty and it’s just constant as we see the scale and intensity of the battle as well as the smaller moments in between the bullets flying and the bombs dropping. It’s the equivalent to something that a Steven Spielberg or a Ridley Scott would mount in epic scale on the screen.
While you can bemoan that lack of genuine character or individual story arc in this film, you’re kind of missing the point. The Eight Hundred is about taking in the scale of things, it’s about the humanity inside the general lack of humanity that happens in war. Hardly about winning or losing but rather about being able to survive it. It’s a film that pulls it’s emotion out of the scope of the spectacle and while it leans into the melodrama of the moment a little too much at times, war movies that are done in this general fashion tend to make much more of an emotional impact then about following one or two random characters who just want to get back to their sweethearts.
In the spirit of films like Black Hawk Down & A Bridge Too Far; The Eight Hundred lets us get lost in the spectacle of conflict while appreciating some of the positives and negatives that can happen in the midst of it all.