Deja vu hangs heavy in the Shanghai air. Every set piece, every premise seems borrowed from predecessors of the genre
Dir: Mikael Hafstrom
Cast: John Cusack, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Chow Yun-Fat, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Rating: * 1/2
What's it about: Deja vu hangs heavy in the Shanghai air. Every set piece, every premise seems borrowed from predecessors of the genre. In this flick set in 1941, the action starts around the time when America is yet to enter World War II and Japan is yet to attack Pearl Harbour.
American spies Paul Soames (Cusack) and Connor (Morgan) are working their contacts in Shanghai trying to work out what Japan is doing in port city. On his return from America after a short trip, Soames finds Connor murdered.
The movie starts with Soames being interrogated by the Japanese security chief stationed in Shanghai (Watanabe), with reference to a missing woman. Paul won't answer.
Soames is soon forced to become friendly with a Resistance-supporting local gangster Anthony Lan-Ting (Yun-Fat) and his wife Anna (Li) to find out more about the reasons behind his friend's death.
What's hot: A slick production, the costumes are spot-on (designer Julie Weiss) and the photography is splendid (cinematographer Benoit Delhomme). It's also a well-known fact that the film wasn't allowed to shoot on location. It was finally shot at several locations in Thailand, but the feel of old-town Shanghai still comes across.
What's not: Director H ufffdfstr m and writer Hossein Amini are the villains of the piece. You try helplessly to find a method to their seeming madness. The screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. While Watanabe is stuck in a role that doesn't show off his acting chops, the chemistry between Cusack and Li is next to nil.
What to do: This has been the year of spy thrillers and while several met with varying levels of appreciation, it seems Shanghai tries too hard to impress when all it had to do was focus on it's core strength. A good, engaging yarn.