Monday, July 27, 2009


Historical Epics. I am a huge fan of this genre of movies. There's something totally enthralling about seeing a major historical event made into a motion picture. The magnificent & vast landscapes, the complex labyrinth of interlocking stories between the various protagonists, the epic journeys undertaken, the rivalry, the loves, the losses. The intense & often massive battles between warring nations/kingdoms. The betrayals, the cruel twists of fate & circumstance. The hero's journey. These aspects are just some of the familiar strands that are evident in John Woo's latest film. Initially a 2 part release in his native mainland China (Total running time 5 hours!), the still lengthy (140 minutes) international version does deliver the 'goods' as such.

The weak Han Emperor Xian allows (Rather persuaded very strongly) his scheming prime minister Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) to lead his overwhelmingly massive army southwards to crush the 'rebel' warlords Sun Quan & Liu Bei once and for all. But without really doing his homework properly, he makes that old chestnut of - underestimating your foe - to his eventual downfall. He doesn't count on the strategies of his main counterparts Viceroy Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) & his clever strategist Lu Su (Takeshi Kineshiro) in being able to build any sort of credible opposition against his mighty army.

To say the battle scenes that ensue are spectacular is a major understatement. No-one does epic battles like the Chinese filmmakers do with such utter flair, virtuosity & brilliance. Woo displays all his trademark visual signatures with gusto. Swords, spears, arrows, flaming fireballs, cannons, thundering horses appear in their thousands! Trust me, you'll probably have never seen such massed displays of vulgar raw military might like this film does. It is intense beyond belief...

Now having seen this epic, it does make me eager to watch the full versions on DVD at some point in the future. Yet again, the credit card will take another hammering...

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