Red Cliff (2008)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2010-03-21
Summary: A great start to an epic...
John Woo's Red Cliff (followed a year later with the concluding Red Cliff Part 2), is a historically based epic recounting the battle of Chibi between Cao Cao and the united armies of Liu Bei and Sun Quan. The story is also told in the Chinese classic "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." The movie, clocking in at over 2 hours, is a well paced action film whose strong acting leads it through any parts that could have slowed down the story. Zhang Fengyi (Cao Cao) is excellent in his role, showing the charisma and strength that would warrant 800,000 troops following him. Tony Leung is top-notch of course, but that is expected at this point. He is one of the best actors in the world, and his talent is not wasted with the character of Zhou Yu. Although he has been considered a relatively weak actor in past films, Takeshi Kaneshiro does a great job in his portrayal of the adviser and strategist Zhu-Ge Liang, highlighting Zhu's calm and thoughtfulness at even the heights of battle.
This being a John Woo film, you have to expect the action to be spectacular, and for the most part it is. The battle scenes are complex and well choreographed, with classic weapons being wielded with deadly results. Blood packets are in plenitude here, and at parts I felt the nostalgia of the old Lone Wolf and Cubs films with their highly-pressurized blood-letting. The only scene that fell flat was the Bagua formation battle. I couldn't understand for the life of me how an army ride into a trap like that without realizing what was going on. Granted I have not ridden a horse and I don't know how they would react in that situation, but the whole thing seemed unrealistic. To further the issue, the battle turned into a real-life version of the video game Dynasty Warriors, with single warriors engaging and wiping out hundreds of enemy troops single-handedly. I enjoy a good battle between an ultra-skilled fighter and some lowly minions, but for some reason this became tedious and boring. Too much action sometimes can have the exact opposite effect as intended, and this scene was one of those instances. Luckily, Woo rights the ship and sets up the final naval battle with great anticipation. Save for that one battle, an excellent film and one that certainly whet's the appetite for the conclusion.

Reviewer Score: 8