Red Cliff (2008) Chinese- Medieval War Drama Rated “R” Runtime- 148 min (US version) dir. John Woo
One of the major problems with action films is pacing. A movie in the genre can succeed in every single other facet, but still feel exhausted by the end. The reason this happens is because the plot either never takes a break from the action, not allowing the audience a chance to breathe, or the introspective characterization is badly written and sometimes laughable. The hero says”I’m just so bad-ass because my wife and kid died years ago. *intense contemplation* I wish all this mindless killing I’m doing could bring them back.”, and suddenly he’s unquestionably human.
Not to harp on how Asian directors are doing things right, but they do know how to characterize protagonists pretty well in their action flicks. Certainly in their war movies, there is a stronger feeling of the “gentlemen in battle” style, something most Western war dramas are just starting to pick up on.
Because the U.S. cut is abridged compared to the original, there are a few small gaps that are noticeable. The overall plot is still serviceable and makes sense, just pay attention to who’s who.
Really strong characters all around, but I feel like some of them could have been composited, even in the long cut. Tony Leung is as great as he was in Hero, and he definitely has a larger role.
Woo surely knows how to shoot an epic war movie, so the sets are convincing and the styling is great.
Good computer effects, especially for the larger scale shots, but the wire-fu style of combat was a little over the top and cheap by comparison. From reading about it, Woo said he was aiming more for a piece of historical fiction than real life. I still feel that wire-fu is out of place and that it ruins some of the characterization.
I think that you’ve already decided if you’re going to see it or not.