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During China's Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.
Gong Li stars in this low-key drama about a single mother who will do anything to provide for her son. Sun Liying (Li) struggles to care for her hearing-impaired child Zheng Da (Gao Xin) after her taxi driver husband divorces.
In the 3rd Century BC, Ying Zheng, heir to the Kingdom of Qin, seeks to dominate the remaining six Chinese kingdoms. Ying's strategy is to seem invincible. Ying sends his concubine Zhao to the Han Kingdom as a spy, to enlist an assassin he can conquer. Zhao persuades Jing Ke, but falls in love. Written by
Tu Juhua created the blueprints and drawings for the reconstruction of the ancient cities of Qin, Yan, Zhao and Han. He also provided the plans for both the Xianyang palace and Handan castle. See more »
This is an epic film about the unification of the ancient kingdoms of China in the third century BC. What makes it interesting is the tragic downfall of the king and all the palace intrigue going on around him. It reminded me a bit of "King Lear" and some of the other Shakespeare plays.
The king starts out with noble ambitions, to unify the kingdoms under one ruler and to stop all the quarrelling so that the people can prosper and lead better lives. He and his childhood sweetheart, played beautifully by Li Gong, concoct a scheme whereby she pretends to go into exile in a rival kingdom in order to recruit an assassin to kill the king, thus giving him a pretext to go to war. But while she's away, the king becomes sadistic in his lust for power and goes on a killing spree.
There are numerous side plots that keep the action going. There is the Marquis, who pretends to be stupid and foppish but who's really very clever and wants to become king himself. He fathers two children with the king's mother and manages to keep it secret for years. Then there is the Prime Minister, a political rival to the king, who turns out to really be his father.
The assassin is a complex character himself. An adept swordsman and killer, he is undergoing a reformation when the king's lover comes to recruit him. He wants nothing more with killing, but is eventually won over by Li Gong (who wouldn't be?) when he sees how cruel and vicious the king has become.
Some spectacular cinematography, especially the battle scenes that are carried out on a grand scale - like they used to say, a cast of thousands, literally. The acting is OK, nothing special. It's the story that's interesting, though at over two and a half hours, it pushes the limit.
Definitely worth viewing.
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