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1,596 Ratings

The Assassin

Ci ke Nie Yin Niang | 刺客聶隱娘 | Nie Yin Niang

Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Taiwan, China, 2015
Drama, History, Action


9th century China. 10-year-old general’s daughter Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who initiates her into the martial arts, turning her into an exceptional assassin. One day, having failed in a task, she is sent to kill the man to whom she was promised, a cousin who leads a large military region.

Our take

Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien reunites with his Millennium Mambo and Three Times star Shu Qi for the sublime The Assassin. This historical wuxia finds Shu’s enigmatic woman knight returning from exile and torn between love and duty. An elliptical, enchanting experience.

The Assassin Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
The Assassin" is extraordinarily beautiful. The film’s editing and narrative construction are, however, no less remarkable. For all its exquisitely furnished interiors and fantastic landscapes, “The Assassin” is far too eccentric to ever seem picturesque. Nor does it unfold like a typical wuxia. Mayhem is abrupt, brief and fragmentary — predicated on suave jump-cuts and largely devoid of special effects.
February 05, 2016
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There is no risk of overstating the alternating manic and woozy pleasure of The Assassin. Like the lavish textiles that help divide the rooms of its Tang Dynasty courts, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s wuxia layers texture upon texture, masterfully obscuring detail to create a one of a kind cinematic experience.
January 21, 2016
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Structured like a classic wuxia film (with nods to King Hu, among others), The Assassin exalts its genre with its deep inquiry into beauty, morality and humanity. Bursts of swordplay; soul-infused landscapes of unimaginable beauty; the silent depths of philosophical inquiry. This is cinema distilled to its absolute essence, an astonishing capstone to a master filmmaker’s still developing art.
January 14, 2016
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What are people saying?

  • Matthew Martens's rating of the film The Assassin

    Needless to say, it will never do to bring the same criteria to bear when assigning stars to different sorts of cinema. Early Hou shakes me up, its stillnesses jittering until they shatter. Subsequent films assumed an ornamental zen serenity, but retained a saving ambiguity that granted dimension to their almost-too-beautiful surfaces. Here, from beneath the audacity of his conceit, Hou emerges as a master-mortician.

  • Jason's rating of the film The Assassin

    This is some serious jaw on the floor shit. My God. None of Hou's subsequent movies have quite risen to the level he maintained in the 90s. The Assassin steadfastly does. This movie is so meticulously mapped out and rigged up that the only suitable way to respond is to surrender wholly to awe. This is a work of art on par w/ anything currently being done in any medium. One finds oneself absolutely immersed.

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film The Assassin

    A martial arts movie only as far as Two-Lane Blacktop is a car racing movie—that is, it's "un-genre" cinema. It may take another viewing to figure out just who the hell everyone is, but I'm not sure that confusion is unintended: this is a film that sets up the realpolitik of a classic "wu xia", but is about the decision to opt out in search of beauty instead. Its desire to disengage couldn't be more urgent.

  • rado's rating of the film The Assassin

    This is the reason cinema is more than photography and drama. Bow to the great masters Hou Hsiao Hsien and Mark Lee Ping Bin.

  • Spiritchaser's rating of the film The Assassin

    Without having to resort to an overwrought artificial style like Zhang Yimou's 'Hero' or Wong Kar-Wai's 'The Grandmasters', Hou's use of natural lighting, in particular the night interior scenes, ushers us into an alluring world of silence. It is myth, poetry, tradition and history.

  • Michael H. CLAES's rating of the film The Assassin

    SWORD STORY, ENTER THE WOLRD OF WUXIA. Between hieratic plans & dazzling accelerations, a magnificent, fascinating & dizzying story of chivalry. The captivating magic & the bewitching mysteries of 12th century will carry you away. ==== Entre plans hiératiques & accélérations fulgurantes, une grandiose histoire de chevalerie, fascinante & étourdissante, dont la captivante magie & le mystère envoûtant vous emporteront.

  • Ghostman's rating of the film The Assassin

    A defiant and unique Wuxia film that strays very far from the typical styles and tropes used in the genre. Watching this film was like being on top of a mountain and taking in the biggest breath of fresh air and it deconstructs the Wuxia genre akin to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie did to the noir movie. I need to see more Hou Hsiao-Hsien films.

  • EdieMaas's rating of the film The Assassin

    Decadent cinematography and immaculate attention to historic and symbolic detail, the nuances of which doubtless remained largely opaque to my North American perspective. A slow and subtle wuxia made and acted so skilfully that it did feel like a shame there wasn't a bit more to it's surface-story as well. Probably my unexamined Western entitlement. Still... 3.75

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