Saturday, 21 April 2012

Film Review: RED CLIFF (2008)

Red Cliff - poster [Original Title: Bi Chi]

Director: John Woo
Writers (Screenplay): John Woo, Khan Chan, Cheng Kuo, Heyu Sheng
Writer (Novel: “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”): Guanzhong Luo
Running Time: 150 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
UK Release Date: 12th June 2009

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 21st April 2012.


I watched this John Woo film on a recommendation and, for a change, the person who recommended it wasn’t too far wrong. There is much to admire, but also a few not so good things. Also, be warned, I know there are some out there that fear subtitles and they are very much in evidence throughout (after all, it is in Chinese). I will give you my thoughts after this brief summary.

Red Cliff - 2 The set-up is best expressed in the words of the opening narration (reproduced below):

Narrator: The year is 208 AD. After years of civil war, a deathly calm has fallen of northern China. One by one, the rebel warlords have met their end under the sword of Prime Minister Cao Cao. Now, even the Han Emperor bows before his power. Yet from the south, a challenge is heard. Two leaders arise against Cao Cao's tyranny, the aging Liu Bei, and the inexperienced Sun Quan. So Cao Cao petitions the Emperor to brand these men as traders, and declare a new war against the peaceful Southlands.

Although outnumbered, Sun Quan and Liu Bei from an alliance and decide to stand against Cao Cao. The majority of the action takes place at Sun Quan’s stronghold known as Red Cliff, where Cao Cao draws up his army on the opposite bank of the river. We concentrate on the actions of two men; Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang, who have a large bearing on proceedings during the war. I really don’t want to say too much more, there’s a bit of a love story going on in the background and several unexpected twists but other than that I really cannot say any more or the Spoiler Police (Chinese Historical Epic’s Division) will be denying me my human rights (again).

Red Cliff - 5 Beautifully shot with some truly epic battle scenes; John Woo really has an eye for action and it really shows here. It’s often quite hard to tell how good a performance is in a foreign language and so I will give honourable mentions to all the leading players: Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Zhou Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang, Fengyi Zhang as Cao Cao, Chen Chang as Sun Quan, Wei Zhao as Sun Shangxiang, Jun Hu as Zhao Yun, Shidô Nakamura as Gan Xing, Chiling Lin as Xiao Qiao and Yong You as Liu Bei.

Red Cliff - 4 On the plus side it’s beautifully shot with some great stunt work and epic battle scenes. There is also some excellent CGI work, although I did feel there was a little too much reliance on this. On the minus side, I did find it VERY long and more than a little confusing, but some of the confusion may come from my unfamiliarity with the culture. Over all though, a decent enough watch with some excellent fight scenes although it does fall a little flat in a few places and it is very… very long.

My Score: 7.0/10

IMDb Score: 7.3/10 (based on 18,315 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 73/100: (Based on 22 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 89/100 (based on 110 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 78/100 (based on 20,915 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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Liu Bei: Truth and illusion are often disguised as each other; Cao Cao likes to play this game, both with friends and foes.

Sun Shangxiang: Here I am!
Zhou Yu: Why are you here?
Sun Shangxiang: To fight.
Zhou Yu: Fight? War is no joking matter.
Sun Shangxiang: You think I'm joking? Women have a duty to serve the Empire...
Zhou Yu: So does a horse!

Red Cliff - 8 Zhuge Liang: A clear Milky Way and snaking clouds signal fog is near. If you know how earth, sky, yin and yang change, then the sun, moon and stars, the wind, forest, mountains and fire, become soldiers at your command.

Xiao Qiao: [pouring too much tea] Your Highness. Don't you see your true self reflected in this tea? Your heart is overflowing with ambition. It's too full to let other people in. You've carried this full heart to Red Cliff. Someone here shall pour that heart onto the floor.

Red Cliff - 7 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site (US):

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