This is not a film about war, although it has depictions of war in it
Comparisons have been made by commenters between Saving Private Ryan and Assembly. While the two are technically and thematically similar, they are culturally far apart and perhaps can be relied upon to give a glimpse into American and Chinese culture.
Both have similar takes on honor and the brotherhood inherent in such violent conflicts. But Assembly chooses to focus on one man's battle to hold his culture's feet to the fire of its mythology of honor and recognition, while Saving Private Ryan makes no statement about such bureaucratic nonsense in American culture. It would be easy to accuse Americans of ignoring their warriors, as with POWs left behind in Korea and Viet Nam, but China is similarly guilty of leaving behind an enormous amount of unrepatriated solders in Myanmar after WWII.
Finding fault is like shooting fish in a barrel, however.
Assembly is a well-crafted story, presented as both pro-war(in that war is an unfortunate necessity, at times) and anti-war(in that often fine people, civilian and miltary, are slaughtered, then forgotten, or worse, ignored).
The visual aspects of the film are extremely well chosen to evoke horror, sadness, joy and frustration. In particular, the one scene that I'm amazed passed the censors was when Gu was being grilled by the two party hacks about the legitimacy of his claims and loses his patience with their mindless protocol. As he leaves the room, he encounters his friend and says, simply, "Unfair.....so unfair". That is the scene that brought the whole film into focus for me. Hardly a piece of communist propaganda, it is an attempt by Feng to bring his nation into an awareness of the role mythology plays in avoiding the truth; that war is truly awful and the aftermath does little to assuage its effects. Feng walked a tightrope, in my opinion, by showing such a scene, knowing it was an indictment of the system in microcosm. That said, the story is still a reaffirmation of people's will to meaning. In China, especially, having experienced inner turmoil on so many occasions, it is hard to imagine that people would ever give up on their lost family members in light of so many news items I have encountered regarding the lost. It happens, but the film is inspiring for being able to take a story that actually occurred and make it a touchstone of determination for the country.