The master of wuxia is taking on the spy genre. Zhang Yimou, whose wuxia masterworks House of Flying Daggers and Hero helped catapult the Chinese martial arts film to the global stage, is back with his first film since 2018’s Shadow, and his first-ever espionage movie. Cliff Walkers is a snowy spy thriller set in the puppet state of Manchukuo in the 1930s and follows four Communist party special agents on a secret mission. Watch the Cliff Walkers trailer below.
Cliff Walkers Trailer
Black suits, black hats, back-alley deals, and lots of moral grays against a frigid, snowy backdrop: those are all the hallmarks of a historical spy thriller, which Zhang plays with elegantly in Cliff Walkers, his new film coming to theaters this month. It’s almost as if the Chinese auteur was a practiced hand with this genre, but it’s all new to him — Zhang has almost exclusively made wuxia films throughout his illustrious three-decade career, and more frequently, his films have been replete with color. But as of late, Zhang has begun to experiment with different styles — turning to Hollywood with the ill-advised Great Wall (not good), and making the monochromatic wuxia film Shadow (much better). And he’s making an even bigger leap, to the spy genre, with Cliff Walkers.
Cliff Walkers is his first film since 2018’s Shadow, though that wasn’t always meant to be. Zhang was working on his magnum opus One Second for years, a deeply personal film based on his experiences during the Cultural Revolution. But despite plans to premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, China’s censorship boards got to One Second, and it might just be lost to the world forever. At least Zhang appears to have bounced back with with the intriguing, beautifully shot Cliff Walkers, which will be the rare film to be released in both Chinese and U.S. theaters on the same date.
Here is the synopsis for Cliff Walkers:
Based on the script by Quan Yongxian, CLIFF WALKERS is director Zhang Yimou’s first foray into the spy genre. Set the puppet state of Manchukuo in the 1930s, the film follows four Communist party special agents who return to China after receiving training in the Soviet Union. Together, they embark on a secret mission code-named “Utrennya.” After being sold out by a traitor, the team find themselves surrounded by threats on all sides from the moment they parachute into the mission. Will the agents break the impasse and complete their mission? On the snowy grounds of Manchukuo, the team will be tested to their limit.
Cliff Walkers premieres in both Chinese and U.S. theaters on April 30, 2021.
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