Dir: John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killer, Broken Arrow, Face/Off)
Cast: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, You Yong
Reason to see: John Woo Does Historical Action. I'm in.
Who would have guessed that John Woo's latest film would be set in 208 A.D, during the final days of the Han Dynasty? Not me that's for sure but I'm glad he did as it landed us with the film Red Cliff / Chi bi. Historical epics can be a challenge with huge amounts of content to cover and the sheer scale of the settings but this one does a great job of using both those challenges and bringing an impressive result. I'll be the first to admit that I can have a hard time following epic war films but not so here, we are presented with an interesting war triangle that is isosceles in nature putting two unlikely groups together against an unruly third.
The performances are solid which is almost a given considering the great cast. It's always a pleasure to see Tony Leung light up the screen as he always does but equally fantastic was Takeshi Kaneshiro (The Warlords / Tau ming chong) who plays the military strategist Zhuge Liang which was one of my favourite characters in the film. Given the grand scale of the battles, it's fascinating to see them from the planning and strategic perspective. This gives also gives a longevity and familiarity to battle scenes as they unfold making them captivating as well as accessible to the viewer. A unique balance of tension and comprehension was created that I've rarely seen in a historical war film. Add to that the battles were huge in scale with full blown action and destruction that created memorial moments and sequences throughout.
It was also amazing to see the signature John Woo style infused into this time period, which feels like seamless nods giving fans a chance to smile along the way as they appear. It also adds that special touch of style that gives the film extra pizazz. Overall, it's a well told story with great performances and memorable action. A fun ride.
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of action & historical action films
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© Shannon Ridler, 2009