China Gate (1957) - Samuel Fuller
Taking place towards the end of the French phase of the Vietnam War, Samuel Fuller's China Gate tells the story of a group of soldiers recruited by the French army to travel through enemy territory in order to destroy a significant weapons depot. One of the men recruited happens to be a half-Asian woman known as Lucky Legs, who agrees to help the French mission if they agree to take her half Chinese/half American son to America. Sergeant Brock, another member of this group, happens to be this boy's son, though he has rejected all of his parental duties due to his son's Chinese appearance. These two, together with an assorted group of military personnel set out to complete their mission at all costs. Samuel Fuller's China Gate works on multiple levels, being a gritty, raw account of the perils of war while simultaneously commenting on racism in society. As one could expect from a Fuller film, this is a brutal war film that doesn't hold back from showing the true cost of war. Fuller captures how a single life is almost viewed as insignificant during wartime, being a minor cog in the grand machine - the overall mission assigned by their superiors. China Gate is beautifully composed by renowned cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc, who uses stylish camera movements and beautifully rendered black and white cinematography that only enhances the experience. The emotional throughline of the film is centered around the romance between Sergeant Brock and Lucky Legs. Brock is a racist man who cannot even accept his own flesh and blood because he's part Chinese. The narrative quickly exposes the absurdity of his racism, exposing the nature of ignorance so apparent in racism. While it isn't flat out terrible, the romance narrative as a whole is uninteresting, being very heavy-handed and forced down the viewers throat. I have no idea if this is even true but it does feel like something Fuller was forced to do, as it seems quite unlike him. China Gate isn't one of the top notch films from this great director but it's a strong film in its own right, being both a thrilling action film and slight commentary on the absurdity of racism.
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