Kult of Athena


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Red Cliff

John Woo, one of the most famous directors of some of the best action films in the industry such as Face Off and Mission Impossible II, has completed his masterpiece. He has created his sword swinging, hard fighting, en masse theatre of death opus. "Red Cliff" is one of the most sohpisticated, well written, well produced films I have ever seen. Some have equated it as the Chinese Lord of the Rings, and I would tend to agree.

This film, while it can be a bit cheesy at times, with exaggerated death scenes and fantasy action, hits every warrior nail on the head. From the beginning of the film there is non stop action, and I mean nonstop.

Emporer: Go kill those rebels
Prime Minister: Consider it done.

That's about as much back story as the audience gets before armies start tearing into each other like a 1980's Raider's fan fight in Oakland. But unlike our neighbors to the far west, our Chinese cast of characters in the Far East, such as Shido Nakamura

The katana swinging Samurai champion in Jet Li's Fearless,

Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who was a character named Broken Sword in "Hero",

and also the most interesting, smartest, and deadliest warrior on the field in Red Cliff, the passive yet amazingly deadly Takeshi Kaneshiro from The House of Flying Daggers,

conduct their savage strife with precision, honed skill (not to mention weapons), brilliant tactics, and above all else honor. But all run on sentences aside, the movie and the action are brilliant not just because of the fight scenes but because of the meticulous attention to detail that John Woo gave to recreating the authenticity of the battles of the Southern Kingdoms of Imperial China on the Yangtze River.

I believe at one point in the film they make reference to "The Art of War," the quintessential textbook to victory that should adorn every man's bookshelf.

Red Cliff adorns its soldiers in the armor, weapons, and equipment of the age with amazing accuracy. During this period, the Han Dynasty, around 208 B.C., foot soldiers and cavalry wore something of a lamellar armor, a number of linked metal plates which would cover their torsos, and helmets, usually made of iron.

This design was lightweight and maneuverable, yet strong and resistant to give the soldier more protection.

Their weapons, and this is my favorite part, as I have been looking into the fabulous construction of these blades for sometime, were for the most part Chinese Han swords,

straight spears,

and a particularly nasty weapon used with surprising efficiency, the Sickle Spear.

(Of course, as in any military hierarchy, the higher you went up the chain of command, the more elaborate the weapons and armor would become.)

The Han soliders used these weapons, and others such as their knowledge of wind patterns, the stars, fire ships, female sex, and link between human nature and the nature of music, in order to create this cinematic masterpiece. Fans of massive, and not so massive (as their are a number of raiding and one on one fight sequences throughout the film), battle scenes, swords, Chinese war cinema, or just have 2.5 hours to kill, then I suggest firing up Netflix and taking a leap of faith on this unbelievable story.

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