Film Review: Aftershock / Tangshan Dadizhen

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Be prepared with tissues from the 4th minute onwards

I’m loving the fact that we’re finally getting a flurry of Eastern disaster movies flying across to the European pond. “Aftershock” was a massive success in its homeland China and deserves every accolade thrown at it. A harrowing tale that takes disaster movies into a much more realistic and serious emotional journey – Aftershock breaks the mould.

Release Date : 2010

Running Time : 145 minutes

The Premise

After a massive Earthquake tears a family of four to shreds, we watch the effects one decision has left on everyone for the next thirty years.

The Disasters Faced

Earthquakes, falling buildings, big concrete slabs, the lack of a sat nav in the afterlife and one armed cyclists.

The Execution

The earthquake takes place just a few minutes into the film and is all over in the first twenty however its effects resonate throughout this epic. This movie is much more geared to towards to emotional drama that sees a mother have to choose which child to save and which to leave to die. Upon choosing her son, leaving her daughter for dead, the two embark on a taut life together in mourning and pressured love. The son can never live up to the extra responsibility to honour his sister and father and the mother is utterly lost in guilt and mourning for her loved ones. Unknown to her, her daughter is not dead and heard the entire ordeal and so spends her life in fostering and never quite feeling good enough. The acting is superb and the script’s translation although clumsy in a few spots really makes for a powerful drama as all their lives inter-cross but never quite meet. It’s on these performances and the good pacing as we fast-forward in ten year intervals to see how their lives are still broken that the film wins you over.

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A childs journey through hell is only just beginning

The Effects

The Earthquake is over quite quickly but is very well done with that slightly drawn CGI style that seems to permeate all eastern disaster movies these days. It works nicely and the sets of destruction after and rebuilding are brutal. There are some thoughtful long shots however of never-ending body counts and fires for memorial that bring home the scale that are great touches too.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Aftershock is an emotional drama first and foremost and the actors are fantastic. The story will see you rooting for everyone as they sink further and further into despair as you hope for their reunion. Yes the disaster elements are there and they do a great job for providing such a brutal backdrop but this is one for the tissue box!

Drinking Game

This isn’t a drinking game film but hey – there’s plenty of scream crying – shots for those!

Best Death

Only one named character dies in the earthquake but best death goes to the daughters foster mum (Jin Chen) for her emotional and regretful death bed speech.

Favourite Character

This is a real dilemma but I think the daughter Fang is the one you’re most emotional attached to and so when you see all that she’s been through, you can forgive most of her mistakes although Mr Wang, the foster father should be present in everyone’s family!

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Plenty of stylised destruction is on hand for the opening section – but its the rest of the film where it pulls the punches

Weirdest Moment

If your not wrapped up in the story, possibly seeing poor Mum (Fan Xu) scream crying at everyone for a good ten minutes may leave you unsettled! I personally was right with her! Also, damn her selfish mother for trying to take her son away too – she was evil!

Random Trivia

In one of those awful real world cross overs, this film was made in 2010 for release in 2011 only for Japan to have a real Earthquake just prior to release. In respect the film sat on the shelf for an amazing 4 years before being released in 2015 after going round the rest of the world first.

Conclusion

If you’ve come for special effects and big budget action sequences you’ll be sorely disappointed  Aftershock is an emotional roller-coaster that spans decades and countless mountains to climb. It’s quite unlike any other disaster movie I’ve watched to date and should find itself a place on everyone’s DVD shelf. Superb.

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