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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Breathtaking historical drama with the intensity of Greek tragedy, 12 March 2000

This 3 hour epic (seems much shorter) explores the will to power and conquest and the conflicting motives that underlie that quest by tracking two parallel lives: the emperor Q'in, whose desire to unify the Chinese feudal states has its basis in noble aims but devolves into violent oppression,isolation, and ultimate powerlessness; and the assassin Jing ke, a mercenary killer who comes to recognize the unintended consequences of murder and finds a form of salvation. As with all great art, this can be understood on many levels. The movie evoked for me images and ideas from Homer, Euripides, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Freud.

The story itself is true (I checked it out at!), so this film will appeal to history buffs. It's ironic that Q'in spent much of his last years in a futile quest for immortality (not shown on the screen, but consistent with the plot).

The movie can also be viewed as an allegory of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution. Through the movie, one can understand that the last 50 years of Chinese history have had their precedent in the last 3000.

Fortunately for the audience, these complex ideas are developed in a film that is rich in imagery, action, and pagent. The battle scenes alone are worth the price of admission.