The film tells the journey of several generations of Chinese National Women's Volleyball Team and their touching stories of tenacious struggle and glory for the country for the past 40 years. (Source: Chinese = Baidu || Translation = MyDramaList) Edit Translation
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Cast & Credits
For love of the gameLeap is a sports-themed movie chronicling the development of China’s ladies’ volleyball team, from its humble beginnings in the 1980s to its current status as one of the powerhouses in the international women’s game today. It is based on actual events and also serves as a biography for the legendary Lang Ping, a former member of the original 1980’s team of rising stars who is now the head coach of the Chinese women’s team. The story spans nearly 40 years and unfolds from the perspective of Lang Ping.
With a lengthy running time of 2 hours 15 minutes, watching the movie did not feel long at all. On the contrary, it felt shorter than it actually is and progresses at quite an engaging pace. When the storytelling is deeply compelling and evokes much excitement, as do most sports-themed shows that re-enact thrilling moments of competitive events, time passes you by without you even knowing. 4 pivotal events were incorporated into the story, notably the friendly/ practice match between the women’s team and the Jiangsu men’s team in 1980, the World Cup finals in 1981 between China and Japan, the Beijing Olympic group game in 2008 between China and USA, and finally the Rio Olympics quarterfinals in 2016 between China and the hosts Brazil. Watching these events felt like watching the real thing, with edge-of-the-seat thrills and whirlwind of emotions as the games were played out. It certainly helps with the suspense when I wasn’t aware of the actual results.
In between the games, we get to see Lang Ping’s personal journey, portrayed by Bai Lang (Lang Ping’s real-life daughter) in her youth and the ever magnificent Gong Li in her later years, through the struggles she experienced in making the women’s team, her stint as the head coach for the USA women’s team, and finally taking over the coaching for the Chinese team during a transitional period of reforming the entire volleyball set up. Both actresses did a marvelous job of depicting the real life icon to viewers who may not have been aware of the emotional challenges she had faced during all the years that she was involved in the sport.
In addition, the supporting cast did a remarkable job as well - Huang Bo and Wu Gang, who played the affable Cheng Zhong He (Pang Ling’s friend and colleague) and the strict-as-hell Yuan Wei Min (Pang Ling’s first coach in the 1980s) respectively. The friendship between Lang Ping and Zhong He, in particular, was beautifully brought to life in the most naturally-portrayed manner. It’s worth mentioning that real life volleyball stars were cast as themselves for the final event, the 2016 game, as were the Brazilian players. All this adds to the sense of realism in the re-enactment of the sporting moments in the film.
The meaningfully written ending theme, River of Life 生命之河, performed by Faye Wong 王菲 and Na Ying 那英, accompanies a montage of actual competition footage in the closing credits.
This well crafted, beautifully presented and well acted production is the recipient of 8 nominations for various categories of the 2020 Golden Rooster Awards, of which it won 3 awards, namely for best picture, writing and cinematographer. And it isn’t hard to see why - the nominations and awards are truly well deserved for what has been an incredible depiction of the dramatic and eventful evolution of China’s ladies’ volleyball team over the last 4 decades.
The Hopes and Dreams of those who Dedicate their Lives to their Sports.Directed by famed Hong Kong Director Peter Chan and led by experienced powerhouses Gong Li (Coach Lang Ping), Huang Bo (Coach Cheng Zhong He) and Wu Gang (Coach Yuan Wei Min), “Leap” details the rise and fall and the rise again of China’s Women Volleyball team. This movie is well-produced and beautifully performed by not just these actors, but a younger supporting cast and a few of the professional athletes and Olympians themselves.
Growing up, I was a fan of the 1980s China Women’s Volleyball team and watched many of these matches on TV with my family. I don’t watch them anymore but “Leap” brought back many memories and might have re-ignited my passion again. The high rating of this movie is very subjective but I also believe it's an amazing movie as well.
Even though the movie is about China’s Women Volleyball team and star player and coach, Lang Ping, one could argue this could be a story about any country, any sport and any athlete. The hard work, sacrifice and dedication portrayed here can be reflected in any professional athlete’s journey. What's different was China’s closed door policy for so many years. When they reopened, they had a lot of catch up to do. The rise of the volleyball team gave China hope that they could be as good as the rest of the world. There’s a quote towards the end of the drama by Coach Lang Ping about why China places so much importance on winning these matches. Look out for that quote.
The movie clocked in at about 2 hours and 15 minutes, but the pace is good and with no drag. “Leap” is full of emotions, excitement, plus quiet and deep conversations between two old friends, Lang Ping and Cheng Zhong He, supporting and encouraging each other. The use of music is excellent in conveying different emotions of the scenes. There is the usual cheering and exciting music at sporting events, but I was especially impressed when they used a violin score for one of the championship matches. The silence at the end of the biggest match let viewers soak in what just happened on their own, while watching quiet scenes of people cheering and celebrating. The ending theme, "River of Life" (生命之河), sung by Faye Wong and Na Ying is beautiful.
As I haven’t been following the sport in years, I did not know the outcome of the 2016 Rio Olympics. All the matches were exciting and it was great to see athletes participate in the movie and act as themselves. Their involvement contributes to the authenticity of the movie, and it must be a well-written movie for athletes to be willing to join in on the fun. According to Wikipedia, 10 out of 12 athletes from the China 2016 Rio Olympics squad appeared as themselves. The cast also includes players and coaches from Japan, USA, Thailand, Brazil, etc.
My favorite scene is the last scene. I don’t want to spoil the fun, but it involves a phone call made by Lang Ping to Cheng Zhong He. It’s the perfect ending and a perfect description of their friendship, hopes and dreams.