Red Cliff

   Director: John Woo, Beijing Film Studio, Rated MA, 149 Mins

The action director of Broken Arrow and Mission Impossible 3, John Woo has brought to the big screen one of the most stunning historical epics ever undertaken.
   The film follows one of the most decisive and significant battles in Chinese history - The Battle of Red Cliff.
   In the dying days of the Han Dynasty, a weak Emperor is convinced by his unscrupulous Prime Minister, Cao Cao to declare war on the southern kingdoms of Shu Han and Eastern Wu in the hope of uniting China and saving the Dynasty.
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   The war was fought in 208 AD between an allied force of some fifty thousand in strength – representing the southern warlords Liu Bei (Yong You) and Sun Quan (Chen Chang), and the numerically superior forces of Cao Cao, (Fengyi Zhang) who had an army in excess of 800,000.
   Liu Bei and Sun Quan successfully frustrated Cao Cao's effort to conquer the land south of the Yangtze River and reunite the territory of the Eastern Han Dynasty-largely due to their brilliant commander Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) and strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro).
   The allied victory at Red Cliff ensured the survival of both Liu Bei and Sun Quan, giving them control of the Yangtze and providing a line of defence that became the basis for the later creation of the two southern kingdoms of Shu Han and Eastern Wu.
 Woo’s magnificent direction is simply awe-inspiring.
   He uses extraordinary cinematic techniques and his three major characters - Zhou Yu (Tony Leung), Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Cao Cao, (Fengyi Zhang), to great effect.
   There is, of course, plenty of spectacle due to Woo’s superbly orchestrated battle scenes coupled with some fascinating tactics employed by Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang against Cao Cao, and shown in a number of creative scenes including the burning of some two thousand of Cao Cao’s ships.
   There is no doubt that Red Cliff is a thoroughly enjoyable movie and, like many in the audience, I did not feel the duration of this movie (149 minutes) was too long, and would have relished it more if it did happen to continue for a short time.
   It is by far one of the most memorable and spectacular movies ever seen and demonstrates what a great international director John Woo has become.

VIC'S VERDICT:       4 ½ Rubber Stamps


DVD Releases
The International
   Director: Tom Tykwer, Rated M, 118 Mins
   DVD release 19 August 2009

Enthusiasts of the crime and spy thriller genre will find German director Tom Tykwer’s latest release, The International,entertaining, intelligent, and intense.
   Clive Owen (Children of Men) and Australian actress Naomi Watts (King Kong) star as the two lead characters – Lou Salinger (an obsessive Interpol agent) and Eleanor Whitman (a New York District Attorney).
   Lou and Eleanor investigate an international bank's involvement in shady arms sales and uncover a complicated conspiracy stretching across a number of countries including Germany, Italy, New York and Turkey.
   Their investigation sets off a chain reaction of murders and political cover-ups.
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   The fast-moving story includes a number of absorbing action scenes that are realistic and exciting as well as some great locations against some superb architectural backdrops.
   The International is a real conspiracy thriller in the tradition of John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate.
   The Sony DVD of The International(alsoavailable on Blu-ray) is a must in any movie collection, allowing the viewer to fully appreciate the solid performances of the cast, especially of Owen and Watts, as well as Frank Griebe's stylish cinematography.
   Particularly impressive were the Italian piazzas and Turkish mosques.
   There are also several worthwhile extras on the DVD, beginning with a commentary by the director and screenwriter, Singer.
   Making The International reveals that Singer based his story on a real 1980s bank that specialised in bankrolling criminal activities.
   Shooting at the Guggenheim covers the construction of the interior of the Guggenheim Museum as a full-scale set to allow for the destructive machine gun battle.
   The Architecture of The International examines the corporate buildings used as giant monoliths that reduce individual humans to insignificance, with Tykwer filming some of them in 65mm to obtain extra clarity for his production.

VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

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