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Movie review: 'Aftershock'

"Aftershock" begins with a harrowing re-creation of the Tangshan earthquake, which claimed the lives of a reported 240,000 people in 1976.

October 29, 2010|By Gary Goldstein

"Aftershock," a blockbuster in its native China and that country's official entry for 2010's foreign-language film Oscar, has made a mostly smooth transition across the Pacific onto American screens. In fact, this involving, well-acted saga of a family torn apart by a devastating earthquake is such a foolproof crowd-pleaser it could likely withstand a release here well beyond its Asian-targeted bookings.

Directed by Feng Xiaogang, China's most commercially successful filmmaker, from a script by Su Xiaowei (based on the novel by Chinese Canadian author Zhang Ling), "Aftershock" begins with a harrowing re-creation of the Tangshan earthquake, which claimed the lives of a reported 240,000 people in 1976. It's here that Li Yuanni (Xu Fan, the director's wife) loses her husband and is then confronted with her own kind of "Sophie's Choice": Her 7-year-old twins have become trapped under a concrete slab and only one child can be saved. This young mother's agonizing decision to rescue her son over her daughter has repercussions that will last for 32 years. That is, until 2008's huge Sichuan earthquake, which bookends the film and brings this affecting story full circle.


FOR THE RECORD:
"Shake Hands With the Devil": A review of the film "Shake Hands With the Devil" in the Oct. 29 Calendar section misspelled the last name of its central character, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, as Dallarme. The review also said the Rwandan genocide had claimed an estimated 300,000 lives. That figure is more accurately estimated at 800,000. —

Although it's a bit overlong and occasionally veers into melodrama, the film handles its many highly emotional moments with heart-tugging veracity as well as an often admirable discretion.


"Aftershock." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes. In Mandarin, Tangshan and English with English subtitles. At AMC's Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park; AMC's Puente Hills 20, City of Industry; AMC's Santa Anita 16, Arcadia; and AMC's Tustin 14.

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