They don’t make them like this any more. Except, they do. Well, Woo does. Epic is perhaps slightly overused when it comes to films. You can’t argue if it is applied here. Everything is on a huge scale, not least the 293 minute running time across the two halves.
Red Cliff is actually two films that were originally released 6 months apart. We’ll ignore the much shorter single film Western release. At a pathetic 150 minutes it’s not worthy of consideration.
The film tells the story of the Battle of Red Cliffs which took place in China in 208/9 AD. (The Wikipedia link contains spoilers for obvious reasons!)
This is film making on a very grand scale. Check out this spanking HD trailer, you’ll see what I mean and will give you a far better flavour than my attempts and finding more and more words that mean “big”.
Looks cool, eh? Well, it is. And in Blu-Ray it looks consistently great. The video quality is excellent throughout, helped by some excellent cinematography and vivid colours, especially in the customers. I’m almost certain at one point of the film you will say “nice helmet” with abandon. Sound too is very good although I found the soundtrack to be good not excellent. Not quite of the quality of a Tan Dun meets Yo Yo Ma.
Now, I understand that approaching 5 hours of subtitled Chinese history may not be for everyone. But you could easily watch this as a mini-series spread over 5 nights. You watched Shogun didn’t you? Bet you did. This is MUCH better.
Sometimes the plotting of ‘true’ events can be a little pedestrian, real life doesn’t always have the twists and pace to build tension or surprise – but there is enough artistic license allowed by the lack of known detail that the story entertains consistently. Although I suspect that much of the interesting detail was added by the historians much later.
Obviously, some of the fighting could be seen as a little silly. Single heroic warriors take on large gangs on baddies single-handedly in very choreographed sequences. You either like this or you don’t but it is entirely fitting with the genre and I’m sure it played very well with Chinese audiences. And, I suppose, post-Matrix, we have more of a fondness of it.
For a film that is essentially about a single battle, there is obviously a huge amount of depth around it. So battle lovers may drift off waiting for it to kick off. There are big lull’s between the 3 main battle sequences but these are just as entertaining in their own way. And when the final battles comes, you won’t be disappointed. It makes Helm’s Deep look like a square-go in the playground.
There is some pretty decent CGI woven in here too. The shot of dove flying over Cao Cao’s fleet is rather smart (you can see a short piece of this in the trailer) and I like the shots of the arrows flying straight at the camera.
All in all, it’s a cracking piece of entertainment and should be part of any Blu-Ray collection.
So, if you have a spare 5 hours to waste and you love great looking movies then get Red Cliff, especially as the full two-disc Blu-Ray is only £9 on Amazon.
Mr Woo, what shall I do? I’ll watch Red Cliff again for sure.