It is often described as a “Chinese ‘Dunkirk'” and, at least visually, does not need to hide from other war films such as “1917” or “Saving Private Ryan”.. “The 800”, an epic about the Japanese siege of Shanghai in 1937, has only been seen by very few in Germany – even though it is the world’s most successful cinema film of 2020.
“The Eight Hundred” has grossed $461 million at the global box office, more than any other film released in 2020, which was dominated by the corona pandemic. However, since over 99 percent of the income was generated in Chinese cinemas and “The 800” did not have a theatrical release in Germany, it is not surprising that hardly anyone in this country has seen the film. Amazon Prime Video offers you the chance to catch up. The 800 is currently available to Prime subscribers at no additional cost.
›› “The 800” on Amazon Prime Video*
However, we can only recommend the film to a limited extent. If you are fans of sprawling action bombast with spectacular pictures, then a real highlight awaits you with “The 800”.
In terms of content, however, the mega hit suffers from an inner conflict: You can just tell that the Chinese censors have adjusted the filmmakers’ vision for propaganda purposes.
The year is 1937. Shanghai is occupied by the Japanese… All of Shanghai? No! 800 Chinese soldiers holed up in a warehouse do not stop resisting the invader. But unlike the Gauls in the famous foreword to the Asterix comics, the outnumbered locals have no magic potion to stand up to the powerful invaders. Instead, all they have left is their will to fight to resist the Japanese.
The aim is not even to win the battle itself. This seems hopeless anyway due to the imbalance of power. Instead, the self-sacrificing struggle for survival should serve as a gesture of resistance to attract international attention and thus receive support in the war.
The shooting of “The 800” was prepared for over ten years and director Guan Hu only used IMAX cameras, as is often the case with his Hollywood colleague Christopher Nolan (“Tenet”). The result are “overwhelming and simply outstanding pictures”judges Björn Becher in his DashFUN review.
And if it were actually just about the show values, “The 800” could compete with the “very best contributions of the genre”. But unfortunately you can also feel the strict control of the Chinese state during the staging. The war epic also contains differentiated nuances and is by no means dripping with pathos as one might expect. So none of the characters are good as a classic hero. The soldiers themselves are more than patriotic lemmings who, out of blind zeal for war, throw themselves to their deaths. They also have their doubts, fears and individual longings. This complexity probably stems from the filmmakers’ desire to tell a truly authentic story.
On the other hand, there are also moments when the Chinese government has obviously used its scissors. For example, the flag of the first Chinese republic, which actually plays an important role in the film but now stands for the island state of Taiwan, which China does not recognize, was cropped in such a way that only the red part of it, which is also used in today’s People’s Republic of China, can be seen .
So, if you can overlook that and just want to re-equip your home theater with battle scenes worth seeing, then The 800 might be something for you. But maybe you are just curious about how the Chinese state’s control affects the blockbuster productions there and want to take a critical look at it. Even then, it’s worth taking a look – thanks to Amazon Prime Video, it’s free of charge. But if you prefer to avoid patriotic, propagandistic war stories, then you can safely ignore “The 800”.
*The link to the Amazon offer is a so-called affiliate link. If you make a purchase through this link, we will receive a commission.