1 December 2004 | Thomas_Neville_Servo
A staggering achievement
From the director of The Missing Gun comes this powerful story of a journalist who travels with a small mountain patrol group as they track a band of poachers across the unforgiving lands of Kekexili, the last great wilderness.
To say this film is great is a grave understatement as its uncompromising nature and cinema verite approach to story telling elevate it above all other films of the year. What this film does so well is connect you with the protagonists in a simple, yet very effect manner. Once the initial setup and character introductions are complete, the rest of the film is spent following them through the harsh wilderness. In doing so, Lu Chuan places the viewer in the same dire situation as the mountain patrol. We're with them as they brave harsh winds, freezing water, sun-baked plains, and treacherous, snow-covered mountains. We feel their anguish as they come under attack from seemingly invisible assailants. We sense their fear and pessimism as they struggle to survive in this breathtakingly beautiful, yet ultimately deadly landscape. All this to protect Tibetan antelope. The fact that they're willing to risk everything for this unseen animal says more about their character than any amount of dialogue. They do this without a paycheck and with the knowledge that they'll probably have little to no success. By giving the antagonist so little screen time, Lu Chuan is able to broaden this story and give it global context, declaring that attitudes and actions such as this should be condemned outright. It also serves to elevate the protagonists above ordinary heroes as it can be interpreted that they're not just doing this for the Tibetan antelope, but endangered animals everywhere.
Kekexili is an enormously powerful film that should not be missed. This is far and away the best Chinese film of the year (better than Shi Mian Mai Fu (House of Flying Daggers) in every respect) and one of the best films of the year, period. 10/10