Film Review: RED CLIFF
Historical epic soars to incredible cinematic heights...
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Currently boasted as the most expensive Chinese-language picture ever made, John Woo's historical epic Red Cliff soars to incredible cinematic heights. This costume war film based on The Battle of Red Cliff was released as two separate parts in China and Japan and has since taken over the box-office lead held originally by James Cameron’s Titanic. For all other territories, including the U.S., John Woo combined the two films and trimmed much of the story from part 1 into one film that is wall-to-wall action and delivers the goods. John Woo fans who have been disappointed by his American films can breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t go into Red Cliff expecting "gun-fu" because you will not find it here.
This Chinese answer to Lord of the Rings or Braveheart, Red Cliff takes place in the year 208 AD and documents a pivotal moment that causes the fall of the Han Dynasty, which has controlled China for four centuries. Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi), leader of the Imperial Army in the North, convinces the Emperor in allowing him to start a campaign to remove the rebel warlords of the south. Ridiculously outnumbered, the southern warlords Sun Quan (Chang Chen) and Liu Bei (You Yong) are forced to join together as allies, as suggested by Liu Bei's strategist, Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Popular Hong Kong lead actor Tony Leung plays the part of Zhou Yu (originally to be played by Chow Yun Fat), a military leader who leads the southern army against Cao Cao. Beaten and on the run, the smaller southern forces retreat to Red Cliff on the Yangtze River and plot to take down the massive army of General Cao Cao, a battle that will forever change China.
With much of the total 280-minute epic edited out, a sense of timing is lost, but more importantly, crucial details surrounding both the Northern and Southern front are severely missing. The DVD release promises to include the original two-part double feature which I look forward to, but even still, there is something incredibly satisfying about seeing the cliff notes version of Red Cliff on the big screen. Even with the shorter run time, Red Cliff never ceases to amaze and impress.
Rated R for sequences of epic warfare.
- David Yeh