Red Cliff (2008)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2008-11-12
Summary: Surprisingly good John Woo mega blockbuster
Admittedly, I had my doubts about Red Cliff. John Woo in the chair to make a historical war drama? That hasn't happened since... oh wait, it's never happened. Then again, if Ang Lee could make such a great movie about gay cowboys, I'm willing to see what John Woo can do outside his territory. That, and the film's steady high profile publicity over the past several years, made Red Cliff a must-see for me.

For Red Cliff, the biggest divergence from Woo's prime time classics such as The Killer is the subdued emotions. Most of Woo's classics were rather in-your-face in terms of melodrama, but not so in Red Cliff. While I loved his melodramas, I believe Red Cliff reveals a matured Woo with improved craftsmanship. Make no mistake: he has incorporated his signature themes of male bonding, loyalty, and sacrifice in Red Cliff--but in a much more subtle and understated manner.

Unquestionable, some viewers have loved Woo for his badass action sequences. But for me, I've always been a fan because of his memorable characters. To this point, I was pleased with Red Cliff's strong characters. The film has focused on making the central figures appealing by either embellishing them with an edgy factor or giving them some depth, and this is successful for the most part.

For me, the low point of the movie was the weak acting from Zhao Wei and Takeshi Kaneshiro -- not just compared to Tony Leung, but on any scale. Kaneshiro is an odd choice to play the historically glorified Zhuge Liang, while Zhao Wei's character seemed totally inconsequential.

The film also features some annoying cartoonish music, which seemed to be oddly misplaced in intense combat scenes.

Other than those few shortcomings, Red Cliff is a solid film that is both a mega blockbuster and quality filmmaking.
Reviewer Score: 8