Memorable, crazy movie
In truth, there is barely enough story here to make a film.
Strong acting helps the film overcome an uncertain premise and create characters that hold our attention absolutely.
The movie turns out to be a little better than the average. Starting from a romantic formula often seen in the cinema, it ends in the most predictable (and somewhat bland) way.
An epic masterpiece! From the acting to the music, photography and visuals. An all-round incredible production and an instant favorite! The film never ceases to amaze! The action sequences are absolutely fantastic, and the war fighting scenes were breathtakingly good!
This probably joins the list of great battle movies on just the scope it was conceived, though not really for what you'll see in this first movie. You actually have an option to watch a condensed version of the two movies (titled Red Cliff) or the two separate ones. If you decide on the latter, the epochal battle takes place in the second installment and here we have the setting up of lavish stage with characters walking in to assume their place in the epic.None of that even remotely interesting as storytelling. It's all filmed from the outside looking into actors on a stage, cleanly separating good from evil, every crucial point mouthed by characters and everything neatly reduced to platitude, nothing embodied or allowed to be inferred as anxious machinations of life; it's opera, something the Chinese know well from their own tradition.And nothing is allowed to breathe in a cinematic way that creates pace and rhythm, allowing each moment to have its own natural resonance dictated by itself, everything forcibly cluttered in pretty much the same way, every frame packed. It's one thing to film war this way, it seems like war would dictate that as its own rhythm, but scenes of dialogue with a cut every two-three seconds?It comes to mirror something else; so, a man of ruthless ambition mobilizing thousands on the field, moving ahead with his scheme to write epochal narrative, no one else allowed any control of their fate. And this is also the filmmaker, exercising control over the cinematic field where he orchestrates thousands to make history in such a way that nothing escapes from that control - you'll notice that almost every shot is a pan, zoom, cut, crane move to what he wants us to see. I haven't felt such overbearing control over my eyes (and put to such daft use) in a long time. People sometimes ask about badly directed movies. This is one.
The first part in a two-part epic clocking in at nearly five hours, John Woo helms one of the most breathtaking war epics ever made. Costing nearly a hundred million dollars to make just this first half, you see the production value from the first seconds. We open with a massive battle with great choreography and sweeping shots of scores of men. It's massive. From there we get into the plot, which includes tons of characters who the western audience won't know well, so it makes the plot confusing at points. That said, the gist is that Cao Cao is trying to take down rebels against the Empire as the Three Kingdoms era is being heralded in. The final battle will be at Red Cliff, where the rebels lay in wait.The middle of the movie isn't very action packed but very beautifully shot and interesting in how it is composed, showing the Asian insistence on beauty and aesthetic over moving the plot. It's quite interesting and you are still treated to many breathtaking scenes full of energy.The final battle is massive and absolutely amazing. The generals come out one at a time and kill dozens of soldiers like they're cardboard cut outs (making the Dynasty Warriors games seem like an inspiration or something). It's massive, it's kinetic, and entirely enjoyable.The film ends with a cliffhanger (of course) but you'll leave feeling pretty complete. It's an excellent piece of cinema. That said, I can see complaints about the insistence on things that don't matter at all. The soccer game at the end of the film? That didn't matter at all. The jam session an hour into the movie? The horse giving birth? But as a complete picture, it's a great foray into a world that American audiences rarely get to see.Sweeping, huge, and beautiful, Red Cliff Part One is definitely recommended.
"Red Cliff" is a film about an episode of Chinese history little-known in the West, the Battle of the Red Cliffs in 208-209 AD, during the decline of the Han Dynasty. It is, however, a familiar story in China, being told in "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms", one of the classics of Chinese literature. At this period the effective ruler of northern China was the Imperial Chancellor Cao Cao, the actual Emperor Xian being a mere puppet. The country south of the Yangtze River was controlled by two warlords, Sun Quan and Liu Bei. Despite the weakness of the ruling dynasty, the imperial army was still strong, and in 208 Cao Cao launched an invasion of southern China in order to reunite the country and to break the power of the two warlords, who formed an alliance to resist him. The defeat of the imperial army by the allies at the Battle of the Red Cliffs was eventually to lead to the fall of the dynasty and the division of China into three separate states during the so-called "Three Kingdoms period".The villain of the film is Cao Cao, portrayed as a cruel and arrogant despot. The heroes, however, are not so much Sun Quan and Liu Bei, but their subordinates, Liu Bei's adviser Zhuge Liang and Sun Quan viceroy Zhou Yu, who lead the allied armies against Cao Cao's invasion. (Given the Chinese Communist Party's determination to maintain centralised control over the whole of China, it is perhaps surprising that the film should take the side of those who in the past resisted the imposition of such control and whose victory led to a partition of the country, albeit a temporary one). The two main female characters are Sun Quan's sister Sun Shangxiang, who infiltrates Cao Cao's camp as a spy, and Zhou Yu's wife, Xiao Qiao.The film was directed by John Woo, best known to Western audiences for action dramas like "Hard Target" and "Mission Impossible 2". "Red Cliff", however, is a quite different sort of film to those. The nearest equivalent in the Western cinema would be the sort of classical epic which Hollywood used to produce in the fifties and sixties, films like "Cleopatra" and "Spartacus" which dealt with the Western contemporaries of the characters portrayed in this film. (The Han dynasty lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD, so was roughly contemporary with the Roman Empire).Like "Spartacus", "Red Cliff" juxtaposes spectacular battle scenes with scenes showing the private lives of the main characters, and like that film it deals with a seemingly unequal struggle in which the heroes are greatly outnumbered by their adversaries. "Spartacus", however, is a tragic drama which ends in the heroes' defeat, whereas here they are victorious, using guile and strategy to offset the numerical superiority of Cao Cao's army. There is a particularly memorable scene where Zhuge Liang tricks the enemy into shooting over 100,000 arrows into a fleet of boats covered in straw, thus enabling the allies to replenish their supplies of ammunition which were running dangerously low.One thing this film does have in common with some of Woo's earlier efforts is the use of highly stylised, choreographed action sequences, something exploited by other Chinese directors such as Ang Lee in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and Zhang Yimou in "House of the Flying Daggers". The difference, of course, is that whereas in those films this style of film-making was used in the context of individual hand-to-hand combat, here it is used to depict large-scale battle scenes between two great armies or navies. (The Battle of the Red Cliffs was fought both on land and on the river).I should point out that I have only seen the version of the film released in the West and which runs to some 150 minutes; Woo's original two-part version, totalling over four hours in length, was only released in Asia. I can, however, say that the shorter version is an excellent film, combining (as did the best of the Hollywood epics) brilliant spectacle with an intelligent, thoughtful script. When I reviewed Baz Luhrmann's "Australia", I concluded that the epic spirit is alive and well and living in Australia. On the basis of "Red Cliff" I can add to that conclusion "
. and in China". 8/10