Zhang Yimou’s period thriller Cliff Walkers is set to open theatrically in China and North America on April 30. It’s the Chinese filmmaking legend’s first attempt at the spy genre, taking place in the snowy, shadowy world of 1930s Manchukuo, the puppet state set up in northern China by pre-World War II imperial Japan.
The film’s international distributor, CMC Pictures, gave The Hollywood Reporter an exclusive look Tuesday at the first English-subtitled trailer.
Cliff Walkers stars Zhang Yi (Operation Red Sea), Yu Hewei (I Am Not Madame Bovary), Qin Hailu (The Pluto Moment) and Zhu Yawen (The Captain).
The film follows four Communist party special agents who have returned to China after receiving special training in the Soviet Union. Together, they embark on a secret mission code-named “Utrennya.” After being sold out by a traitor, the team find themselves surrounded by threats on all sides from the moment they parachute in. Will the agents break the impasse and complete their mission? On the snowy grounds of Manchukuo, the team will be tested to their limit.
A directorial legend in China, Zhang is a member of the country’s influential fifth generation of filmmakers. His work has enjoyed more international awards honors — including three Oscars nominations, for Ju Dou (1990), Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and Hero (2003) — and overseas commercial success (Hero earned $53.7 million in the U.S.) than any other mainland Chinese director of his era.
It’s been a while since Zhang’s had a huge hit though. His most recent release, the Cultural Revolution-set drama One Second, spent a year in agonizing censorship purgatory and earned only $10.6 million in China last year. His 2018 stylish martial arts film Shadow brought in a healthy but unexceptional $90.5 million in China, and just $521,000 in North America.
Zhang’s next project after Cliff Walkers will be a patriotic sniper movie set during the Korean War, which is expected to be released in China this fall.