John Woo's latest film, based on the historical Battle of Red Cliffs. The film is set in 208AD right at the end of the Han dynasty and right before the period of the Three Kingdoms. While the film is rated R, I quess for the battle scenes I don't think it really deserves it. There is minimal blood, no decapitations, no blood and guts flying. It is filmed in such a way as you can enjoy the battle scenes and not have nightmares. They are quite fun in fact, especially since a favorite tactic of one of the rebel generals is to run and tackle a warhorse in the shoulder and watch it fall down.
The basis of the film is that prime minister Cao Cao has subdued all the northern warlords and has an established Han Emperor on the throne. He is now looking to the south to subdue it so there will be one unified China with him the power behind the throne or possibly the future Emperor. The Southern Emperor joins in an alliance with the last rebel leader, Luin Bei and his generals. The final battle is a the Red Cliffs Fort. There are lots of subplots and romances but for the American audience these were cut out but you can quess who is involved with who. The story is very easy to follow, yes it is in subtitles but are very brief so not to interfer with the visuals. There is one love scene with the Southern general and his wife, but it is very beautifully done. No butt or chest cleavage, brief shots (young kids will not know what is going on and the scene is very inoffensive) and then a swirling panramic view showing the wife artistically draped over the husband and a gracefully draped sheet hiding all the essentials. I would think that last shot took several hours so the set designer could drape the sheet perfectly over the couple.
The film is 2 hours and 28 minutes with the last 28 minutes spent on the final battle. While some of the martial arts are matrix like they did not go overboard. One of the best moves I saw was one of the generals, who was an expert spear fighter would thrust his spear through an enemy's body and the the head of the spear would appear 3 ft on the other side of the body. The general would then step past the fall soldier and pull his spear out the back of the body.
I thorouhly enjoyed this film and loved wathing it on the big screen. The only trouble with the film is that is has a limited release. I live in the Northern Virginia area and I had trouble finding it. It was showing in the Landmark theatres in Washington DC and Bethesda MD.
I do recommend this film. You can expose yourself to some Chinese history and some great filmmaking.