The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

It may not be summer yet, but the new year has kicked off with a disaster movie that will have viewers riveted as ‘The Rescue’ heads to UAE cinemas on January 7.

Made at a production budge of $100 million, the film looks at a rescue team’s death-defying mission to save survivors from a fiery offshore catastrophe. Comprised of men and women from various backgrounds and led by a maverick captain (Eddie Peng), the unit face non-stop escalating challenges across air, land and sea.

We take a deep dive into what makes ‘The Rescue’ the perfect popcorn watch this season:

Dante Lam, need we say more

Dante Lam
Dante Lam Image Credit: Supplied

‘The Rescue’ is the latest entry to the slate of films by Hong Kong’s highest-grossing film director, Dante Lam: think ‘Operation Red Sea’, ‘Operation Mekong’ and ‘To the Fore’.

The 2016 National Day release of his ‘Operation Mekong’ gained instant international recognition and grossed $1.18 billion RMB to become the No. 1 hit of the holiday period. In 2018, his other action thriller ‘Operation Red Sea’ was slated for a Chinese New Year release and reeled in $3.65 billion to become the highest grossing film of 2018 and earned the Grand Slam for the Best Director accolade for Lam at the Huabiao Awards, the Hundred Flowers Awards and the Golden Rooster Awards. Riding on the success of ‘Operation Mekong’ and ‘Operation Red Sea’, Lam has become the most bankable director of Chinese films.

The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

Lam teamed up with his long-time collaborator producer Candy Leung for ‘The Rescue’, along with a high calibre Hollywood crew that included Director of Photography Peter Pau (‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’), Production Designer Martin Laing (‘Titanic’) and Special Effects Supervisor John Frazier (‘Spider Man’, ‘Transformers’ and ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ series) to bring this audio-visual spectacular to the silver screen.

Lam first came across the China Rescue and Salvage (CRS) five years ago, even before he started filming ‘Operation Mekong’. At the time, someone showed him the live footage of a CRS rescue mission. The short clip moved him deeply. “As a filmmaker, that was the first time I realised the strong wind and big waves I see in films actually exist in real life. The rescuers face such enormous odds against nature and are very likely to die in the line of duty. This is precisely what left me in awe.”

The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

According to Lam, ever since then, the subject matter of ‘The Rescue’ was deeply etched on his mind. Even though filming conditions were not favourable at the time, Lam never gave up the subject. While looking for a more suitable creative process, Lam acquired experience from his other work, until the timing was finally right five years later.

Humanising disasters

The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

In a film about sea rescue, disaster scenes are inevitable. In order to show the predicament faced by a CRS rescue unit, gripping action sequences were designed for ‘The Rescue’. Even though every scene was shot within well tested environment and had safety precautions in place, Lam designed the action sequences based on the cast’s actual ability.

“When you get into the character, you’ll realise something very interesting. As an actor, Wang Yanlin may be scared, but as the character I play, even the greatest danger won’t faze me, because a true rescuer has a genuinely selfless mindset,” actor Wang Yanlin said.

The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

The actor Wang Yanlin said if he hadn’t been filming ‘The Rescue’, he would never have realised how noble it is to be a CRS rescuer. Leading man Eddie Peng also expressed his respect: “Each mission is a disaster. Without this film, it’d be impossible for us to imagine what this job entails. Life is fragile, both the rescuers and the victims are in great danger. Not only must the rescuers save the victims’ lives, they must also calm them down. You can imagine they must have enormous EQ and faith.”

China’s biggest sea production

The Rescue
The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

To ensure this first Chinese film about a rescue at sea has the best audio and visual effects, the project came with a budget of 700 million RMB ($108 million). Preparation for this long-gestating film started five years ago and took 123 days to film. It is also the Chinese film to date that has the biggest production set at sea. Four heavy-weight set-pieces were designed to go with the storyline and each of these sets alone were almost equal to the scale and difficulty of making a medium budget disaster film.

The Rescue Image Credit: Supplied

Due to these highly demanding action sequences, Lam struggled whether all four scenes should be kept. “Most films require only one or two major action sequences as the foundation. Keeping all four is a rather daring idea,” he stated.

Lam was unwilling to give up any of these painstakingly conceived scenarios. After considerable deliberation, Lam decided to keep all four. “Sea rescue is unlikely to be a topic I’d repeat, this is my only chance. I want this to be perfect.”


Don’t miss it!

‘The Rescue’ is out in UAE cinemas on January 7.