Film Review: Leap 奪冠 (2020) - China
Reviewed by Andrew CHAN (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
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Director Peter Chan continues his trend of creating inspiring Chinese stories about human achievements and friendships. In “Leap”, Chan make the most of the atmospheric and nostalgic 1980s China backdrop on the verge of opening up to the world. It is without doubt that sporting dramas based on real life stories with nationalistic pride is a well known workable Hollywood formula. Aided by strong core performances from Gong Li, Huang Bo and Wu Gang. Adding in the mix of the real life national team women’s volleyball players, there is a touch of authenticity that ends up elevating “Leap” to better movie.
Gong Li takes on the famed national coach role of Lang Ping whose humble beginning as a World Cup winning national team player in the 1980s takes a dramatic turn as USA head coach in the 1990s before returning to her roots as China head coach in the 2010s. It is this complicated background that allows Li to expand her acting range showing conflicted emotions as someone who married and lived in USA before coming a full circle of emotions as she ended up beating the Chinese national team in the Olympics. Huang Bo is equally effective as the contrast, being a male training partner, he is inspired by Lang Ping from a young age to become more than just that. Bo grounded performance allows others to flourish and provides a rock to Li’s more determined performance. The national team players simply play themselves and in that effect makes the action on display far more convincing than with actors playing their roles. The game scenes are well shot and paced as we clearly see the sets and plays clearly which aid to its believability factor.
All in all, “Leap” is by no means director Peter Chan’s best work, but it shows a level of maturity in his filmmaking where he does not allow nationalistic pride to be overindulged. Sure there are the expected national flag and anthem, but the focus is always on the characters, the interplays and real life competitions. Along with top notch performances all round, “Leap” stays true to most Hollywood sporting drama formula and for that Chan manages to succeed in promoting women’s volleyball and its international successes.
I rated it 8/10
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