For the Mark Zhao (“Ten Miles of Peach Blossom”) fans out there, you definitely must check out this movie. Or if you just love really well told stories of adventure and survival, this is a must see. It’s a visually stunning movie about two people who survive a plane crash in the Antarctic and must figure out how to find help in time. It’s a beautifully told story and, so far, one of the best Chinese movies I’ve seen.
I hadn’t heard anything about this movie before and just happened to see it listed by chance while I was checking on the release date for another movie. Once I saw this trailer (no dialogue, just some amazing visuals that immediately made me want to know more) I couldn’t wait to see it.
Usually for movies like this there’s a lot of exposition before you get to what the story is about, but this movie wastes no time getting the ball rolling. The movie starts with the ill-fated plane ride. Nouveau riche businessman, Wu Fuchun (Mark Zhao), wants to offer destination weddings in the Antarctic. The plane he chartered to survey the area is the only one going to the South Pole as the others have been grounded due to the weather forecast. Scientist Jing Ruyi (Yang Zi Shan, So Young) along with a Russian scientist have hitched a ride so they can study the aurora australis.
Fuchun, decked out in a flamboyant fur coat and taking selfies, is smug and confident with the prospect of his company going public and doesn’t understand why these scientist aren’t more impressed by him. Ruyi is practical, serious and has no time for his nonsense. But quickly their flight turns tragic as a storm hits and their plane ends up crashing far from where they were originally meant to land. Fuchun and Ruyi find themselves the only survivors and must immediately find shelter before the elements (and some rather carnivorous birds) take their toll.
After surviving a snowstorm, they find shelter in an abandoned observation shack that still happens to have some canned food, a generator and just enough fuel to get them through the rest of the polar day (about 3 months) before the polar night hits and it will become too cold for them to survive. Ruyi has fractured her leg in the crash, but with her knowledge of the area and some educated guessing, she is able to figure out that 20 miles from their location will be a manned observation station – but in which direction? It’s up to Fuchun to go out every day and explore and figure out where the station is so they can be rescued.
There are funny moments with Fuchun interacting with the Antarctic wildlife, trying to evade a glacier calving in the middle of answering the call of nature and fishing in the ice. But there are also a lot of heart stopping moments as well as he battles frostbite, going snowblind, falling into a deep crevasse, being buried alive in the snow and almost drowning.
Equally as heart wrenching is watching Ruyi stuck in the shack, counting the days, not knowing if he will return or not, while dealing with her own health issues and trying to decide whether or not to end her own life when she thinks he is gone for good.
As they experience more challenges and adversity, their situation brings them closer together. They continue to persevere, using the other person’s survival as inspiration to keep them going, and you find yourself hoping that love will win out.
Filmed in the Antarctic, the cinematography is amazing and those wide landscapes of nothing but snow and sea really help you feel the isolation. Zhao and Yang are the heart and soul of the story. Because they are the only two people throughout most of the movie, it’s up to them to keep the the audience invested in these characters. Mark Zhao especially does a great job. Every time something happened and I was certain he was a goner, I kept holding my breathe and hoping for rescue to arrive.
If you are able to, please do see this movie. It’s definitely worth the two hours. And if you cry easily, especially during declarations of love in the face of what could be certain death, bring a lot of tissues. (There was much sniffling to be heard in the theatre when I went.) It’s a wonderfully crafted film and I’m now a huge Mark Zhao fan for it.
There are also several behind the scenes videos on YouTube from when they were filming in the Antarctic if you want to see more about how they filmed it all.