'Lost in White' brings chills and thrills to moviegoers

Fans of flicks filmed in frozen places, like The Revenant, may find Lost in White merits a hot spot on the silver screen. Shot in temperatures lower than -40 C in Northeast China, the movie also offers car chases, explosions and lots of gore.

While Leonardo DiCaprio recently won an Oscar for his performance in The Revenant's frozen wilderness, Chinese actor Tong Dawei joked at a film-promotion event last week that "an actor has to suffer in an icy environment to get the top award".

Well, in the upcoming Chinese thriller Lost in White, which will premiere on April 15, he plays a role that is anything but comfortable.

"I thought I was fully prepared (for the role), but I was wrong," says Tong.

Most of the shooting was done in temperatures below -40 C in Northeast China.

Even the promotion event was held on a skating rink, probably to re-create the film's cold atmosphere.

For Tong, 37, the son of two police officers in real life-otherwise known for his image as an idol bringing sunshine-the movie also gave him a chance to realize his dream of playing such a role on screen.

While the detailed storyline of the film was not revealed, the movie is expected to have a dramatic ending.

Hong Kong silver-screen veteran Tony Leung Ka Fai also plays a key role in the film.

In one scene he is rescued from a frozen lake.

For the shoot, Leung, 58, preferred to allow himself to be immersed in the cold waters of the lake rather than use cosmetics to create the impression of feeling frozen, in a bid to give the scene a more realistic touch.

"He wanted to give young actors an example of how they should react when they encounter such a tough environment," says Tong.

Meanwhile, Leung says that the tantalizing screenplay called for such sacrifices.

The film also marks the big-screen debut of director Xu Wei, who has moved from being a cinematographer to leading the team.

"I felt huge pressure directing the film," says Xu. "It was especially difficult doing so many bomb explosions and car chases on ice, something uncommon in Chinese films."

However, in spite of his perceived lack of experience, he says the screenplay gave him lots of room to be creative and try out options for the action scenes on ice.

The domestic thriller, which makes an appearance on mainland screens after a considerable absence of such kind of movies here, is a welcome change as the genre has seen a rise in its popularity in recent years thanks to offerings from South Korea.

Last year's domestic productions Saving Mr Wu and The Dead End, for example, both received generally positive comments from critics and filmgoers in China.

And, in a nod to South Korea's skills when it comes to this genre, an action director from the country was invited to work with Lost in White team.

Ping Hui, the producer and the screenwriter of the film, says that the movie is not another Black Coal, Thin Ice, a crime film that won the best actor award at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. That film was also set in the cold winter of Northeast China.

"Black Coal, Thin Ice was dark, but it is mainly an art film. We don't have such a heavy literary and artistic atmosphere in this movie. We just wanted to make a pure commercial film with a breathtaking pace," he says.

"If a commercial film from such a genre wants to taste success, it has to be entertaining and polished in its details. And it must take human nature into consideration. All in all, the complexity of vice and virtue is a theme that never goes out of style."

He says that while the country's film regulators are an issue for any filmmaker who wants to make a similar film, he puts a positive spin on the subject, adding: "As long as it (the issue) exists, what we have to do is try our best to get used to it and create something of quality."

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