July 14, 2008

Red Cliff - Some Random Thoughts

As expected, John Woo's Red Cliff (赤壁) , the most expensive movie in Chinese film history, has broken opening day records in mainland China and topped the box-offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea over the last weekend. The US$80 million historical epic has already earned US$26 million on its opening weekend across these five Asian territories* and looks set to become the highest grossing East Asian hit movie this year. This is the first of a two-parter for Asian audiences and the sequel is scheduled to be released early next year. For audiences outside Asia, a condensed 2½ hour version will be released in January 2009.

I got to watch this highly anticipated movie over the weekend and I was largely satisfied with the performances in the film. From Tony Leung's portrayal of the calm yet brilliant Zhou Yu, to Takeshi Kaneshiro's portrayal of the witty Zhuge Liang, to Chiling Lin's beauteous Xiao Qiao, every member of the cast did a satisfactory job of bringing their characters to life. I was especially impressed by Zhang Fengyi's portrayal of the dominating and ruthless Cao Cao, although he is the singular lonely villian in the story, he still looked like he could eat every member of the gang of good guys - Liu Bei and his generals, Zhuge Liang, Zhou Yu, Sun Quan, Sun Shang Xiang and Xiao Qiao, for lunch. It's one against many yet the many seem to have a real hard time dealing with the ONE (Cao Cao), who looks to be the smartest of the lot ;-)

But what impressed me the most were the battle scenes, these do not disappoint and are the best parts of the movie. I could honestly say that these are some of the best battle scenes I have ever seen in an Asian movie. John Woo is really the master of action sequences and the battle scenes in this film retain his signature style ( lots of slow motion and sweeping moves) without losing the feeling of realism. Look out especially for the exciting battle scene just before the movie's end, for this is the part where we can finally understand and experience Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang's military genius (even though according to Wikipedia, this battle is purely fictional ;-P).

But the movie is not without faults, perhaps because of the plot, there is little human drama that is memorable. After watching the movie, except for the battle scenes, there were hardly any scenes that sticked in my mind. Lovebirds Zhou Yu and Xiao Qiao do not generate a lot of romantic sparks and Cao Cao's obsession with Xiao Qiao somehow also comes out a but strange, maybe because it is quite unbelievable that a man like Cao Cao could be so obsessed over a woman, to the extent of going to war for her... And I also feel that the soundtrack could be improved, some of the film's music just sound too modern and do not seem to fit the time period of the movie.

All in all, I think this is one of the best big-budgeted Chinese historical epic that I have seen so far, definitely much better than the too-extravagant-for-its-own-good Curse Of The Golden Flower ;-P

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Source: *http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/15/arts/AS-MOV-John-Woo-Red-Cliff.php,

Picture from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Cliff_(film)

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