Ip Man (2008)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2011-01-12
Summary: Well done historical epic
“Ip Man” suits Donnie Yen’s not inconsiderable dramatic talents quite well with him portraying Ip Man as a serene martial arts master who would rather reason with a foe than fight with him but when pushed to the limit he can dispose quickly of those who won’t listen to reason. Yen is well cast as a strong silent type, reminding one (at least this one) of Gregory Peck, a mid-twentieth century archetype for that role. He is a hero who does the best he can under the most horrible circumstances with China occupied by the Japanese army, collaborators everywhere and most of his fellow citizens too cowed to do anything.

His family (concrete) and his honor (more abstract) are his most important concerns, the existential issues that he must face every day. He must decide each new morn once again to fight against the forces of evil that surround him but to do so in an effective and virtuous manner which allows him to both confront the sorrow and suffering around him but also to survive to continue the battle.

The action scenes are excellent with wire work well done and properly integrated into the flow of the fights. The scenes in which the towering General Miura takes on and defeats all comers are particularly brutal and, even though over the top, still come across as realistic because they fit so will with the overall narrative of the invincible Japanese and the brave but doomed Chinese. Gordon Lam almost steals the movie as the anguished collaborator who finally redeems himself and Simon Yam is excellent as the mill owner who only wants to stay in business and help his fellow Chinese.

The production designers did a great job in realizing a pre-war cotton mill and a believable town scene. The brutal battles in which the Chinese risk their lives against more fit and rested Japanese fighters—all for a bag of rice—show creative lighting design on a minimalist set.
Reviewer Score: 8