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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Review - Red Cliff I & II


Movie Title
Red Cliff I & II
Year
2008/2009
Genre
War Drama

Story
In 208 AD, Cao Cao, Prime Minster of Han Dynasty led a full-scale war on the kingdoms of Xu (in the west) and Wu (in the south) in a mission to unite all of China.

This is the latest take by John Woo (the most expensive film ever produced in Chinese movie history) on the classical Chinese War Epic – the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms, with the focus on The Battle of Red Cliff (hence the title). John Woo lets the audience understand who the major players of the movie are by taking the time to develop the multiple facets of their personalities (eg: learning that Zhou Yu was not only a master strategist at war but is also a renowned musician! The same applied to Zhuge Liang!) and steadily builds up the momentum of how the forces of the 3 armies were mobilized, culminating in the final epic battle at Red Cliff!

Altho’ the focus is more on Zhou Yu & Zhuge Liang, Sun Quan, the Prince of the Wu Kingdom, and the other legendary generals from Liu Bei’s camp are prominent supporting characters in the show:
- Zhao Zilong (who also recently had a movie: http://jmerb.blogspot.com/2009/01/movie-review-three-kingdoms.html)
- Zhao Yun
- Guan Yu
- Zhang Fei
Acting
Discounting a few rather awkward/over-the-top scenes, some injected elements of humor and a couple of rather illogical action sequences, the acting was very credible. The witty interaction between the 2 main War Strategists Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) & Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) juxtaposed against the villain Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) constitute my favorite parts of the show.
Additional Comments
Being unfamiliar with the original text, this cannot be said with certainty but John Woo had taken some liberties to include certain sequences that helped break the pace as the movies were interspersed with some lighter moments to give the audience a breather every now and then.

Also, it is hinted here that the main reason for Cao Cao’s war was his love for Zhou Yu’s wife - Xiao Qiao, whom Cao Cao considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Magnificent Epic” are the only words appropriate to describe these 2 movies (recommended to be viewed & enjoyed in 1-sitting). Combined, the 2 movies last about 4 hours & 30 minutes.
Overall
This movie has it all –
- Action
- Betrayal
- Battle of wits
- Full scale war
- Love
- Loyalty & Alliances
- Romance
- Suspense
- Appreciation of the arts
Highly recommended.

Rating: 8/10

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