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North of the vast 8th century Tang dynasty Chinese empire, the commercially and culturally priceless silk route is controlled by 36 friendly Buddhist kingdoms. Their are threatened by Turkic nomad tribes, the caravans also by brigand bands. Japanese scholar Lai Qimay not return home until the emperor is satisfied with his missions to retrieve refugees from the barren border lands. The last is competent imperial lieutenant Li, who was proscribed for refusing to execute Turkic prisoners. He now lives among fellow warriors for hire as caravan escorts. Lai Qi and Li reach a gentleman's agreement to postpone their lethal duel till after the safe arrival of a caravan including a young Buddhist monk and his mysterious freight. When Turkic warlord Khan's daughter's hand seals an alliance with brigand sword master An, the only way out is trough the grimly dry Gobi desert. Written by
Before reviewing the film, I must point out that although I love Asian films, I generally dislike films like CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON and THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN. That's because special effects take center stage and they are, in my opinion, completely ridiculous and over-the-top. They are so unbelievable that it ruins the pictures for me. Now I know MANY like these films, so I know this statement isn't going to be too popular. But, to me there is a big difference between "suspension of belief" and "suspension of common sense and the laws of physics".
That is why I really liked this film so much. While it does use some of the amazing stunt-work like the other two films, it does not use stunt-work to replace the plot AND the stunts are much more sedate in manner. Yes, they are a little far-fetched but not nearly to the same level.
Instead, the true stars of the movie are the locations, camera work, acting and script. And, the overall package is great. How the movie has achieved a ranking of about 6.5 on IMDb is beyond me, as it is perhaps the best Chinese epic film I have ever seen.
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