In the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minister Cao Cao convinces the fickle Emperor that the only way to unite all of China is to declare war on the kingdoms to the west and the south. Thus the battle begins… Starring Asian superstars Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Zhao Wei.
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It's beautiful to look at in a flashy, colour-coded way, and eager to show you its sense of scale; "Red Cliff" is cinema fairy tale, complete with epic battles, wise heroes, a tomboy princess, and a beautiful, insufferably saintly wife in peril. Real life isn't like that, but why go to the movies to see things As They Really Were?
I've been a huge admirer of John Woo's Hong Kong films for sometime but until seeing Red Cliff I had never thought about listing him among my favorite auteurs but this film clinched it. How this film hasn't received more attention(even with its poor distribution) is beyond me, in terms of craftsmenship and spectacle the recent work of Ridley Scott, Cameron and Nolan don't come close to what Woo has done here.
I think it's almost impossible to appreciate this movie without understanding the historical context and the richness of so many of the characters. Otherwise it just looks like a bunch of people fighting.
Grace and violence meet, only under John Woo. I hope he stays within China to make even more interesting, important films. Good for China and seems to be more personally fulfilling for him. The beauty of it all, coupled with the historical strategy and brutality is mesmerizing. Forget the short version.
Agree that it is his masterpiece and makes it clear to me that he really is an auteur.
Every second between the geniunly epic battle scenes is a copy-paste of popular American and popular Asian cinema. So much so, that these moments (often filled with low-brow melodrama) become embarassing. This is by far Woo's best effort, but it's no "Ran"... (2 stars out of 5)
Woo finds the right note and then mercilessly smashes it for 300 minutes. Red Cliff is loud, grandiloquous, exagerated, campy, infantile. And, guess what, it works incredibly well. Once you accept the absurdity and push aside the shallow drama, the battle sequences can be immensely thrilling, both for the execution and the well mesured set-ups, the over the top top antics of the generals being humorous and inventive.