In 208 A.D., the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime
Minster Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) convinced the fickle Emperor
Han the only way to unite China was to declare war on the kingdoms
of Xu (You Yong) in the west, and East Wu (Chang Chen) in the
south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale,
led by the Prime Minister, causing the two kingdoms to form
an alliance. Numerous battles ensued on land and water, eventually
culminating in the battle of Red Cliff...
Director John Woo and his team of screenwriters co-wrote
this movie adaptation of "Red Cliff" based on historical
accounts rather than the widely known novella version of it.
While it’s true that Woo and company did some creative
changes to the various characters and happenings, it’s
clearly an epic every movie-goer should attempt to watch.
that Liu Bei is a threat to the Emperor, the movie opens with
Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) attempting to capture the latter. Within
minutes, we are introduced to Liu Bei, his advisor Zhuge Liang
(Takeshi Kaneshiro), Zhao Yun (Hu Jun), Zhang Fei and Guan
Yu leading the civilians to safety, simultaneously holding
back Cao Cao’s armies.
the battle, Zhuge Liang proposed a diplomatic mission to negotiate
an alliance with Sun Quan (Chang Chen), the young ruler of
Wu. The Commander in charge of Wu’s army is none other
than Zhou Yu (Tony Leung). Together, the two alliances come
to an agreement to fight off Cao Cao who is in the meantime
on his way with his naval and land troops to ignite the Battle
of Red Cliff.
a runtime of 2 hours 20 minutes, Woo took his time to slowly
let the audience engaged themselves in the company of Zhou
Yu, Zhuge Liang and their bunch of merry men. Various characters
pop in and out of the screen every now and then and most of
the deemed central characters like Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and
Guan Yu are left to the sideline. These are obviously the
negative aspects of how limited a big-screen adaptation can
do to an epic story. In addition, there are questionable doubts
as to why Liu Bei behaves more like a meek than a brave righteous
warrior? And why does Guan Yu not resemble that Guan Yu we
can see that Woo has to sacrifice the above to dedicate more
screentime to the friendship between Zhuge Liang and Zhou
Yu. Chivalry between brothers is a long incurring theme in
Woo’s movies, "The Killer", "Hardboiled"
are some of the fine examples. In "Red Cliff", to
convey the unsaid emotions and bonding of the two renowned
strategists, there is a zither segment that goes on so slowly
that impatient viewers might find it wanting and unnecessary.
portray the lovey-dovey relationship between Zhou Yu and his
wife, Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi-ling), considerable screentime is
also dedicated. Of course, for the uninitiated, the intimate
scenes which were cut from the theatrical version are left
intact on the DVD. Those expecting a Lust Caution redux will
be duly disappointed though.
Cliff" part one is an obvious setup to the grand battle
which will present itself in the concluding episode. Those
looking towards the much touted battle sequences can find
solace in the first battle with Cao Cao’s cavalry which
cleverly made use of the Eight Trigrams Formation. Combining
visual effects from The Orphanage and shrewd choreography
from Corey Yuen, the battle sequence will set your adrenalin
pumping for more.
review shall not touches on the casting choices as there are
simply too many comments made about the cast by the media,
netizens that in my opinion truly distracts one from enjoying
the movie of this scale. All I can say is the final cast puts
in respectable performances despite a certain Chow Yun Fat
abruptly left the shoot that nearly stalled the US$80 million
mentioned earlier in the review, flaws are indeed inevitable
given the scale of this adaptation. One which I found particularly
disturbing is the intentions of Cao Cao in the whole invasion.
Given that Cao Cao is an ambitious, scheming tyrant, he is
surprisingly portrayed as a man succumbed and mesmerized by
Xiao Qiao’s beauty. Is it Woo’s aim to simplify
the story and characters and tilt it more understandable to
the Western? This, we can only conclude after watching the
Cliff" is set to a rousing score by Taro Iwashiro with
Oscar-winner Tim Yip as the costumes designer. This is a lavish,
grand epic movie which salvages not only Woo’s waning
career in recent years but most notably, a classic tale that
is exemplified on screen through sheer sincere, hard work
by both the cast and crew. When the credits rolled after this
first instalment has ended, you just can’t wait for
the Battle of Red Cliff to unravel…
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD does not contain any special features.
Cliff" comes with an option of English and Chinese subtitles
with a single Mandarin track however there’s no indication
or availability of the sound system to select from. To conclude,
the DVD’s audio and visual transfer is passable.
by Linus Tee