Red Cliff 赤壁 (Chi bi) [2008+2009] • China

A five hour holiday marathon. Period pieces, costume dramas, and films about fighting (physically or with weapons other than the heart) are a few of my least favorite film genres so I don't know how it happened but I loved every minute of this monster. If I had watched the condensed version I wouldn't have liked it. There are two 30 minute fight scenes, and since the cut version is aimed at Western audiences I doubt they would have suffered any loss, which would have then made them be half the movie and I would have been bored silly.

I love the Art of War, men of honor, tea ceremony languid pace of it which allows for fleshing out the characters and slowly developing the gravity of the situation. Sure, it's a little over-the-top at times—it's John Woo—but it's really easy to get into the film's depiction of historically important events and forgive a few personal excesses. The film is remarkably understated for the most part. All the performances are good. All the actors bring you into their world and make you care for them and their concerns. I even rooted for these guys when they went ONE against ONE THOUSAND ... something so silly I've never understood the prevalence nor appeal of it in film.

This film ignited an interest in Chinese historical epics I never thought I would develop. It prompted me to watch The Emperor and the Assassin, and that one is awesome. I've got a couple more in my queue. I think the key is picking the ones that are made for a Chinese rather than a Western audience. The long version of Red Cliff seems to be one of those films. It's slower and more poetic, which is what I like. If it's what you like and you've been keeping this one at bay for fear it's just another big, dumb Chinese historical videogame, give it a shot—and be sure to give it the long shot.

Director: John Woo
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Chen Chang, Wei Zhao, Fengyi Zhang, Shido Nakamura, Jun Hu, Yong You



  1. This is my genre so its no surprise I loved it(of course, you know I'll put up a shrine for John Woo hehe so..)Funny how I entered the theater without even watching its trailer and went out almost teary-eyed after having watched a gem! I watched the condensed version and I'm thinking of watching the uncondensed one but sadly, even the copies sold here are the condensed version. Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro are a big plus for making this movie a successful one. Now that I think of it,knowing me and my no-passion for slow types, I might get bored at the long version. No?

  2. I dunno. There'd be more Tony and Takeshi ;)

    I put this off too long. It really opened my eyes to this EPIC thing. And the fighting wasn't just fighting. They really went into the BATTLE plan. The whole thing with the turtle. There was so much to engage you in this film. I wanted it to go on forever!