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:: Red Cliff (Chi Bi)

Director John Woo takes what he learnt while working on Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Face/Off’, ‘Broken Arrow’ and ‘Mission Impossible II’ and applies the trade to an Asian film that he has wanted to make for the last twenty years. Some would say that Woo has taken a major step-back in his career, but what has resulted is the sensational ‘Red Cliff’, a film whose battle scenes can only be compared to the legendary ‘Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy.

‘Red Cliff’ is set in China during the Han Dynasty, a time when China had one emperor, Han Xiandi but the country was still split into a number of warring territories. Prime Minister Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) is desperate to destroy all so-called ‘warlords’ as he has ambitions of power. He convinces the Emporer to declare war on the western province led by Liu Bei (Yong You) who sends his brilliant military strategist, Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to the Southen Provence where he is to convince it’s leader, Sun Quan (Chen Chang) and military leader, Viceroy Zhou You (Tony Leung) to align with them in battle against Cao Cao. They will be severely outnumbered but the believe they can win.

The international version of ‘Red Cliff’ sees the four hour (two-part) Asian version reduced down to 145 minutes, and while early on the film you can tell where parts have been cut out, by the final battle you are so engrossed in the story and the characters at hand that you forget that there may have been parts cut out. So well filmed is the action that you don’t even notice the length at the film.

John Woo does an absolutely amazing job with ‘Red Cliff’. His cast of thousands does get a little frustrating at times, especially during battle scenes as it isn’t always clear who is fighting (and more importantly… killing) who, sometimes it’s even tough to pick what armies are fighting, but for some strange reason this doesn’t seem to prevent you from finding yourself ‘barracking’ for some characters. It is also terrific that instead of choosing to film this as another ‘beat-em’up’ film Woo manages to capture the true story that it is strategy that wins wars. You can tell that he has put in a lot of effort to make this film historically correct… and it pays off.

‘Red Cliff’ certainly shouldn’t be ignored because it is an ‘Asian’ film, this is an amazing film that is far superior to a lot of the action films that are coming out of Hollywood at the moment. This epic is a masterpiece.