Opening with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we follow the match for gold between China and USA. This match alone has over three hundred million viewers watching the game live. But it’s not just another game for the coaches Chen (Bo Huang) and Lang Ping, aka the Iron Hammer (Gong Li). It’s something more meaningful and exciting. The reason for this is that Chen and Lang are long-term friends.
After this introduction, we get to go back and see where their friendship began in 1979 at a volleyball training compound. A young Chen (Yuchang Peng) receives a new job working as the assistant coach for China’s women’s volleyball team. At this point, the young Lang (Bai Lang) is a backup player and is often pushed aside to lift weights instead of playing. Throughout the film, we see Chen and Lang tackle multiple trials and challenges over the years. Both their worlds and perspectives are highly different, yet they continue to support each other with courage and strength.
Leap is a dramatic sports film; for those unaware, it is also based on a true story. This film has much to tell as it focuses on China’s Women’s National Volleyball team over a lengthy duration. When we first meet Lang in 1979, we fully understood her position in the team and the pressure to obtain wins and success. We see Lang’s coach being harsh to her and that moments of compassion are also a rarity.
If you are into movies focusing on sports and Volleyball, Leap will carry some appeal and certainly interest you. Visually, I can’t fault this film. It’s stunning to look at with sharp picture quality, gorgeous high-res colours and stunning movement. As the film progresses, it’s also interesting to see how the game of volleyball changes, including various procedures, coaching styles, and technology. Chen and Lang also change their personality as they encounter new life experiences. Their relationship is a significant aspect that unfolds through the pair sharing heartfelt moments.
However, despite a few enjoyable moments in the plot, Leap sadly didn’t hold my engagement, nor could it firmly get my attention. The volleyball games throughout lack excitement or tension, and while the story between the two leads is sweet and kind to see, it struggles to introduce a more compelling story. Ultimately, I watched the story unfold from the sidelines without being fully pulled closer.
Overall, this is a story of an unlikely friendship filled with encouragement and strength told through impressively sharp visuals is bound to please some audiences, even more so if you’re a lover of all things sport and volleyball. Sadly, I felt the runtime on this one, and getting invested or feeling impacted was rare. Ultimately, it’s just a story, and I felt as if I was benched to watch Leap from the sidelines without being fully part of it. Sure, there were a few solid moments, but I wished the drama and biography had impacted me on a deeper level.