Assembly (simplified Chinese: 集结号; traditional Chinese: 集結號; pinyin: Jí jié hào; literally "Assembly (bugle call)") is a 2007 Chinese war-drama film directed by Feng Xiaogang, and starring Zhang Hanyu. It was first released in December 2007 in Mainland China. The film is one of the first few movies produced in the mainland with a portrayal in the realist style of the Chinese Civil War. The movie is an adaption of the novel "Guan Si" (A legal case) which is based on a real account of a veteran army captain upholding his company honor.
The story begins in 1948 during the Huaihai Campaign of the Chinese Civil War with Gu Zidi (谷子地), a captain of the Chinese Red Army, fighting the Kuomintang (KMT) and winning a battle with severe casualties. The loss of his political officer in the fight causes Gu to order the shooting of the surrendering KMT prisoners, but the command is met mainly with refusal. As punishment, Gu is imprisoned, and he quickly befriends his cellmate: an army teacher and pacifist named Wang Jincun, who had been jailed for cowardice. Gu's commanding officer, Colonel Liu, soon sends Gu and his 46 remaining men off on a new assignment; to defend (with limited resources) the battalion's flank to the last man — an old mine on the south bank of the Wen River — and not to retreat until he hears the bugle call for assembly with the regiment. Gu then receives permission to take Wang (who is condemned anyway) as his new political officer.
Just as the platoon fortifies the position, the Kuomintang suddenly attack with artillery, infantry, and tanks; the company fiercely fends off the enemy, while Gu orders the dead and severely wounded to be carried into the mine. Barely a handful are alive when a wounded soldier recalls that he heard the bugle call in the distance. The others begin to say that they heard the bugle as well, and allege that Gu, deafened by multiple explosions, was not able to hear it. Duty bound, Gu resolves to stay, which moves the remaining men to follow him and fight to the death. An undetermined amount of time later, Gu is seen in an army hospital, the only apparent survivor of the battle. Incredulously, he is treated as a POW for wearing a scavenged enemy uniform when he was found, and he realizes that no records of his regiment remain, due to a sudden change in the army's unit numbers — therefore no one believes his claim as a Red Army officer, nor his accounts of the heroic battle.
Gu continues to be wracked with guilt over the death of his comrades during the next several years: he goes on to fight in the Korean War and is wounded in the face during a sabotage mission by a landmine. At the end of the conflict, he recovers and returns to the old battlefield, determined to restore glory to his lost men, only to find the mine reactivated and the old entrance buried under a ton of coal. Encountering Wang Jincun's widow and a friend from the Korean War, Zhao Erdou, during his search, he convinces the two to marry. Zhao's help would then allow him to uncover records of Gu's old battalion, leading him to Colonel Liu's grave and its keeper, his unit's former bugler. He learns from him that Liu died recovering from wounds sustained in the Korean War, and that the bugle call was never sounded at the Wen River battle; instead, Gu's company was used to hold off the KMT so that Liu and the rest of the battalion could retreat. The betrayal enrages Gu greatly, but he decides to forgive Liu, promising to join him in the afterlife.
Realizing he is now his company's only living witness, he camps out in a mining hut near the old battlefield and starts to dig at the huge coal pile daily with a pick and shovel, despite protests from the miners. A month into his ordeal, the old battalion's political commissar is found, and the men are finally honored through an official notice, but Gu remains inconsolable, as he still cannot unearth the bodies. A memory then surfaces of the Wen River battle: Gu and a mortally wounded Wang are the sole survivors, and after pulling the last of the dead into the mine and setting up explosives, Gu orders Wang to blow it up to prevent the corpses from being captured. Wang follows this order before dying, as Gu is knocked unconscious by a tank blast in a final defensive effort.
Years later, excavations for an irrigation project eventually unveils the hidden tomb containing Gu's men; a large monument is erected and a formal burial performed, finally putting Gu's men at peace. The epilogue captions reveal that Gu dies thirty years later at a veteran's retirement home, and the origin of his name being the place where he was found as an orphan; a millet field ("guzidi").
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