Based on the real-life exploits of China's so-called Wild Yak Brigade, this harrowing adventure follows a fearless mountain patrol as they cross the Tibetan plateau in search of a ruthless band of poachers. The poachers prey on the endangered chiru, a gorgeous, long-horned Tibetan antelope that makes its home in the vast Kekexili region along China's Tibetan border. Prized for their ultrafine coats used to weave expensive shahtoosh shawls and scarves, the antelope's numbers have dropped from more than one million in the mid-1980s to fewer than 10,000, and the poachers' cruel willingness to hunt females in the antelopes' breeding grounds means the population continues to plummet. And antelope aren't the only victims: Since 1996 members of the volunteer civilian mountain patrol formed to protect the chiru have also been turning up dead; the most recent murder of a patrolman has brought Beijing journalist Ga Yu (Zhang Lei) to Kekixili in search of the story and of the patrol's leader, Ri Tai (Duobuji). Ri Tai is at first wary of this outsider, but once Ga Yu explains that publicizing the plight of the chiru might convince the Chinese government to declare the region a nature reserve, Ri Tai agrees to let him tag along. Setting out for the mountains where they suspect poachers have followed the migrating antelope, Ri Tai stops passing trucks and wagons and confiscates pelts he knows are being smuggled out of the area. Soon enough, Ga Yu is witness to a heartbreaking scene of carnage, in which hundreds of chiru lie dead, the skin torn from their carcasses. Despite approaching bad weather, mechanical breakdowns and near-exhausted supplies, Ri Tai presses on, determined to finally confront the poacher he's been trailing for years. Like a modern-day Ahab, Ri Tai pursues his nemesis at enormous cost, both to himself and his men, and makes devastating moral compromises in order to continue his mission (compromises that in real life eventually lead to the arrest of the mountain patrol). But, as Ri Tai himself explains, he's like the faithful who prostrate themselves on their pilgrimage: His hands may be dirty, but his heart is pure. He's the appropriately complex center of a fascinating film that also benefits greatly from the stunning scenery of the Tibetan plateau and from a quicksand scene that will leave you gasping.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on the real-life exploits of China's so-called Wild Yak Brigade, this harrowing adventure follows a fearless mountain patrol as they cross the Tibetan plateau in search of a ruthless band of poachers. The poachers prey on the endangered chiru, a gorg… (more)