In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minster Cao Cao convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff. During the battle, two thousand ships were burned, and the course of Chinese history was changed forever.Written by
John Woo: [Two Guns] In this case, it was two swords, as the movie takes place in 208 A.D. Zhou Yu and Prime Minister Cao Cao each hold a sword to the others throat in John Woo's trademark "Mexican Standoff" image. See more »
A sleeping baby is shown with blood spattered on his face in one shot, and in the next shot his face is completely clean. See more »
The year is 208 AD. After years of civil war, a deathly calm has fallen of northern China. One by one, the rebel warlords have met their end under the sword of Prime Minister Cao Cao. Now, even the Han Emperor bows before his power. Yet from the south, a challenge is heard. Two leaders arise against Cao Cao's tyranny, the aging Liu Bei, and the inexperienced Sun Quan. So Cao Cao petitions the Emperor to brand these men as traitors, and declare a new war against the peaceful ...
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For the UK theatrical release, cuts were required to remove a shot of a cruel and dangerous horse fall (a horse being tripped and falling forward, rolling over on its neck). The cuts were required in accordance with the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. See more »
The Battle of Red Cliffs holds a special place in Chinese history and mythology. It was a decisive conflict which occurred at the end of the Han Dynasty, immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms, and it was fought in the winter of 208/209 between the allied forces of the southern warlords Liu Bei and Sun Quan and the numerically superior forces of the northern warlord Cao Cao.
The 2008 film, titled simply "Red Cliff", was deliberately timed for release in China in the lead up to the 2008 Summer Olympics and was a great success with Chinese audiences. One year later, the movie has a limited release in the West where the selling point is not so much the history (which is largely unknown outside China) as the director (Hong Kong's John Woo who is known for such Hollywood work as "Broken Arrow", "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible 2").
It has to be said that the Mandarin dialogue is leaden and much of the acting somewhat exaggerated, but a huge cast and considerable special effects - allied with the director's trademark style - makes the movie visually stunning with clever tactical manoeuvres, multiple battle scenes and considerable blood.
If it all seems a little confused to Western audiences, this is probably because we are seeing it in a rather different version to the original. In Asia, "Red Cliff" was released in two parts, totalling over four hours in length, whereas outside of Asia, the release is a single film of 'only' two and a half hours. For me, it's not up there with "Hero" or "House of Flying Daggers" but it is well-worth seeing and a pictorial treat.
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