Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Red Cliff”

(Magnet Releasing. 2 hours, 28 minutes. Rated R for sequences of epic warfare. Directed by John Woo.) Tony Leung (Zhou Yu), Takeshi Kaneshiro (Kongming), Fengyi Zhang (Cao Cao), Chen Chang (Sun Quan), Wei Zhao (Sun Shangxiang), Jun Hu (Zhao Yun), Chiling Lin (Xiao Qiao). Music by Taro Iwashiro.

Just before the fall of the Han Dynasty, Prime Minister Cao Cao declares war on the southern warlords Sun Quan and Liu Bei. Facing a massive numerical disadvantage, the two warlords join forces and confront Cao Cao’s army at Red Cliff. A sweeping, beautifully made epic about a key moment in China’s history.

Let me start by saying this movie is big. From the lavish sets to the sheer amount of people involved in the battles, the scale of this film is staggering. Woo manages these elements admirably, balancing large melees with much smaller, more human beats. The battles, being the meat of the film, are well-executed, featuring all of Woo’s hallmarks (liberal use of slow motion, oblique camera angles, etc). The strategies behind those battles, provided by Liu Bei’s chief strategist Kongming (Kaneshiro, a Japanese actor surprisingly cast in a Chinese film) and Sun Quan’s viceroy Zhou Yu, are extremely clever and easily the most fascinating parts. The film is not without its problems, though. The pacing is choppy in places, some of the performances are iffy and the cast of characters gets painfully large, leaving some of them sketchy at best. Save for the performances, these problems can be attributed to the almost 1 and 1/2 hours of footage missing from the US release (the Asian release was two 2-hour long films), meaning that much of the politics and characterizations for the second- and third-stringers has gone missing. Still, for half of a film, Red Cliff holds together surprisingly well, delivering a grand retelling of a pivotal conflict.

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Jared Counts

Digital Technology Manager

Jared Counts moved to Houston in 1995, survived high school and college, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a degree in Communications (Media Production) and a minor in Film Studies. After being hired part-time at KUHF Radio in early 2003, he proceeded to bounce between...

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