So where is the anti-war war film that we’ve all been waiting for? Where is the film that shows the ravages of war without romanticising warfare, heroism, or military strategy? Turns out that it’s been in Jackie Chan’s head for at least 20 years, in the form of Little Big Soldier, where a rank and file soldier manages to capture a great general after a battle.
Cultural ideologues will scream for Jackie’s head for this “没大没小” (lack of respect for elders) premise, but the movie gets far more subversive: all the soldier wants is to return to a simple life of a civilian, free from the annoyances of war, compulsory conscription, and national service. And he’s going to drag the general back home for a handsome reward that would let him retire in peace.
Jackie Chan’s trek across China with his high-profile war prisoner is as politically conscious as a travelogue can get. The harrowing journey across the fractured social and physical landscape is punctuated by Chan’s folk songs and its depiction of the breakdown of ordinary life serves as an eloquent moral rebuke to the all-too-popular, all-too-glib “war is necessary” line that some people cynically spout and others sincerely believe. Jackie Chan’s film suggests that the Chinese should revere more a Book of Peace or a Book of Survival over Sun Tzu’s manual.
Aside from being a well-written action comedy, readers may want to note that Wang Leehom spends 99% of this movie bound up and tied up (and in different positions too) as a prisoner of war and undergoes much humiliation by his social inferiors. It’s something that you might have been waiting to see for years. Finally, the casting is pitch perfect: real-life national service deserter and pop star Yoo Seung-Jun stars as a pacifist prince who will do anything to stop a war!