Red Cliff (2008) Poster

(2008)

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6/10
Big Hits and Big Misses
david-wei-jiang31 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
My favorite scene in the movie was one where Zhuge Liang was lying alone in the a vast meadow. Eyes closed. He was dreaming yet he wasn't asleep. He was dreaming up war strategies and listening to the hooves of the horses of the opposing army. Through this, he was trying to figure out the enemy's war formation. This scene was able to establish Zhuge's brilliance and it stayed central to the film's goal (war strategy). But there were other scenes of the opener of John Woo's 2 part ethic that failed miserably.

I completely agree with bbbgut's review. Being a Chinese American, I believe that Asian cinema is still many steps behind Hollywood in many respects. Like so many other films, there were so many scenes in Chi Bi that were not central to the story. Instead, these scenes were superfluous and cheesy. Half the scenes were just fat that needs to be trimmed.

Notable examples are 1) the protracted scene with the old farmer and the boy with the di zi (wooden flute) 2) the birth scene of the calf 3) the battle of the guzhengs (wooden harpsichords) and 4) the tiger hunt in the woods.

The tiger in the woods scene spent a large part of the film establishing a character (King of Eastern Wu) who had such a small role in the movie. Of all the characters in the movie, the King was probably the least memorable. Yet, he received the most screen time in character development. On top of all this, the scene was done very poorly. John Woo failed to show how daunting it could be to hunt a tiger and how much courage it takes to confront such a beast. The end of the hunt was terribly anti-climatic. And after this long scene for the King, he was barely seen again.

For analysis of the other scene read on: Through the other scenes, John Woo wanted to establish 1) Zhou Yu is an able and learned General disciplined in Sun Tsu's (Sun Zi) the Art of War 2)Zhuge Liang has a keen intellect and is in command of many disciplines that help him as an able strategist. 3) Zhuge Lian and Zhou Yu are way above the rest in intellect and that they can communicate on a higher plain. He established these points quite ineffectively and yet they took so much film time. Instead, these scenes, left you confused until later on, when Zhuge Liang says outright he is very capably in command of (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline. 5 aspects of the Art of War. Even at this explicit explanation, the audience will fail to equate knowledge of war to a calf being born. To reiterate, unless it applies directly to winning the war at Chi Bi, LEAVE IT OUT.

In a movie you must establish these subtle yet important points as quickly as possible. One is not afforded with the little nuances and side plots that develop the characters unless you want the audience to watch all 120 chapters of the original book in it's glorious detail. In addition, you want to stay focused on the central theme of the movie: "The war at red cliff". It's the title for Christs sake. Unless you want the movie to be named birthing, music, and war don't include those other scenes. Have other scenes take it's place.

Last note, instead of the guzheng scene, how great could it be if the two strategists could see each others' genius through their battle plans. And we as the audience bear witness to their great minds beginning to resonate with each other. Instead of seeing Sir Isaac Newton and Alber Einstein engage in a piano dual.

John Woo says that he will consolidate the 2 part movie in to one for the American audience because Americans don't have the attention span for long films. This is not true, since a movie like Schindler's list is worth every minute of the 3hr 15 min running time. Also, Part II, Chi Bi 2, was just a long protracted battle scene anyway. With the only notable scene being "stealing arrows with straw boats".
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7/10
With enough patience to stay in your seat, a good watch but a little disappointing
bbbgut29 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I am one of the billion fans of the Three Kingdom novels, story as well as hundreds episode long TV shows made about it before. And I was really excited to see a 60 million dollar movie being made on the battle of Chi Bi. But it's not the classic it could've been.

Don't let your previous John Woo experiences like Face Off or MI2 fool you. This movie is deeply in the Asian style of making. Things to look for are slower pace, beautiful scenery/Mis-en-scene, cool Asian music, a lot of metaphors, lots of fighting (everybody loves them!), awful extras...

First off, the pace is so so slow. I am a patient viewer and know when directors have to go slow to make an impact with the story, but I find some problems with pacing with this movie especially with war scenes. For example are the scenes with the shields reflecting sunlight. We got the point! The shields are a clever move, but you don't have to basically repeat 2 shots (soldiers turning their shield, the horses go wild) twenty times.

Cinematography is pretty good in this movie. I said pretty good because while it looks good, it is bad compared to the likes of Fearless or Hero, while it has a lot more to work with than those movies. Computer graphics are not the best but enough for a pass. The flying pigeon scene is a great idea.

The musical score in this movie is interesting. I feel it's a little Western influenced because of the symphony/violin sounds besides the heavy drums and flute. Other than that the music is great. However they could probably utilized the use of musical themes more.

I don't particularly like the casting choices for Guan Yu and Liu Bei. Liu Bei is a royal family member filled with kindness, and I thought the actor has little elegance (or anything royal-like) in his look, and look is important for a character with less chance to be portrayed. You can understand my point when comparing him with the actor playing Sun Quan. Guan Yu is basically a saint-like warrior in the story. His look alone has a lot of characteristics (a large man with a graceful look, spreads fear on the battlefield but is a symbol of safety for his people...) that I think the actor's appearance is not deep enough to portray.

The highlights of this movie are the interaction between Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu. Their first encounter is an awesome sequence. Not many words are said but Zhuge Liang fully understand Zhou Yu's character through his acting toward the farmers and his soldiers. This scene is Asian filmography at its best. It shows soldiers preparing for war yet somehow the slow pace works, not many words are spoken but great music fills in the space, and the character of Zhou Yu's is fully brought out to the audience. The scene of the 2 characters playing music is also great, but I feel the repeated shots of the person's face through the candles get boring.

On a similar note, I like these two actors. Kaneshiro Takeshi did some very good face acting to portray well the wittiness that his look would normally lack, as it is a significant feature of Zhuge Liang's characteristics. He also does well in comedic moments. Definitely upped a level from House of Flying Daggers. Leung Chiu Wai is a veteran and he plays Zhou Yu very well, he can be calm or determined, clever or ass kicking. Also they have good synergy and that's important since they are the two main characters.

"Forced" scenes: - The sex scene- man sexing up his wife before going to a deadly battle...300 anyone? And it's way too long for a sex scene that's not that raunchy. - Tiger hunting scene: too long, some blurry shots and bad editing make it obvious that the tiger is from Discovery Channel. This is a typical lame Asian move when they force a metaphorical scene.

I'm a little annoyed with the final fight sequence. Here's a little info so you can be on my page: Cao Cao has 700,000 soldiers, and the good guys got more than 30,000 heads... There are 2000 cavaliers trapped in your formation, CRUSH THEM. I don't like how they focus too much on the cinematic effect (badass battle at the end of the movie) and make it unrealistic as well as too long. Letting ALL your best generals going SOLO against the enemy may make a heroic scene, but only idiots would do it in real life. And if it takes that long to kill 2000, how will you do against the 680,000 that's left? However I give props to John Wu for a courageous and excellent interpretation of the Ba Qua formation (for your information, nobody really knows how to do it so he's quite brave to try)

If you're looking for amazing fighting or choreography, go to Seven Swords. I like their decision to make the moves in Chi Bi not too fancy because this is war and it comes down to kill or die. Also this is very early in Chinese history (2nd, 3rd century) and realistically martial arts styles are not highly developed yet. There is not a lot of comedy but it is well timed and to the right level as well as effectiveness.

I also find the battle helmets ugly.

Overall I feel like this movie could be 2 hours and more effective than the 2h30min mark it is right now. But it is awesome to finally see a story like the Three Kingdom being put into a production worth its scale. Also the storytelling is great and full of excellent metaphors, the characters got depths and smarts. Of course the brutality of war is brought out well. I believe the second part will be a feast.
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Visually stunning but too short
rogerdarlington19 June 2009
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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10/10
Stunning Historical Epic
IncludingTheStars12 August 2008
This review is of the Chinese DVD Release of the 1st film only... I cannot understand how the previous poster could feel that way about this gorgeous epic. Everything they said they hated were things I thought were well done, and wonderful about the film. Of all the people I've shared this DVD with, they've all thought it was an amazing movie also.

Ever camera shot was gorgeous. The angles were unique, without wasted punch-ins or b-roll. It's rare to find films so tastefully shot. The color was stunning, and the interpretation of the classic tale was unique and never disappointing.

Meanwhile, With all the characters, the actors each held such a powerful presence. It's very tough to develop any character singularly while you have so many important characters with their own mythos and chronicles, but each actor really held up to their image and that of the character. Kaneshiro is a very unique version of Zhuge which caught me off guard at first, but appreciated after his scene w/ the Zhou Yu. Zhou Yu was never a character I've cared for, but here, he's likable and strong. The best "fresh" interpretation though was that of Guan Yu. Instead of being "just another" honourable and strong warrior, he's rather a warrior-scholar, more intelligent, and more personality than ever before.

My only true quarrel is that it ends prematurely (that is, until we see the 2nd half in 2009). I just wish they could have done the whole saga instead of this little piece.

Thank you John Woo for one of the finest Three Kingdom movies ever! I believe this is a great direction for your talents! You've woven the action you're so famous for with a deep, heartfelt classic tale! Wonderful job!
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10/10
The Art Of War Vs. The Art Of Tea
druid333-213 December 2009
After several years away from Hong Kong (and mainland China,as well), John Woo has returned,with a vengeance,to direct perhaps one of the finest films of his career. 'Chi bi' (or as it is being distributed in English speaking countries as 'Red Cliff')tells the tale of two warlords locked in battle mode for the control of the south of China, in the fourteenth century,during the Han dynasty. Tony Leung Chiu Wau stars as Zhou Yu,while Fengyi Zhang just absolutely reeks of bad guy as war lord,Cao Cao. The rest of the cast turn in outstanding acting jobs,as well. Originally,this film was released in Asia as a two part,five hour blockbuster that went through the roof as one of the most successful films from mainland China (but is cut by half it's original running time to just under 150 minutes). Along the way,we are witness to several full pitched battle scenes,but features some nice locale shots of the Chinese countryside,as well during the non battle scenes (filmed in wide screen by Yue Lu & Li Zhang). The razor sharp editing is by Hongyu Yang,with assistance by Angie Lam & Robert Ferretti,for the American version). This is taut,nail biting entertainment for the thinking person who is sick to death of most of what passes for films from the Hollywood sausage grinder of the same old,same old. Spoken in Mandarin with English subtitles. Rated 'R' by the MPAA,this film serves up some fierce, intense battle scenes,with graphic bloody violence,as well as some mild adult situations.
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8/10
A review of the European version
freemantle_uk16 June 2009
After 15 years in Hollywood and making only on decent film (Face/Off) John Woo returns to his Asian roots. Here he get the creative independence he deserves and creates the most successful (and most expensive) ever Chinese films.

The year was 208AD, the Prime Minister Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) has taken control of Northern China and made the Emperor a puppet ruler. But the south is defiance. Lord Liu Bei (Yong You) tries to fight and has excellent general, but is hopelessly outnumbered by Cao Cao forces. He sets out to make an alliance with two other Southern Lords, the young Sun Quan (Chen Chang) and military expert Zhou Yu (Tony Leung). Liu Bei uses his chief adviser Kongming (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to negotiate with Lords. Even with this new alliance, Cao Cao still outnumbers the 3 Kingdoms with a force of 800,000 troops. Zhou Yu and Kongming sets out the win the coming battle with strategy, expert military tactics, trickery, the weather and spies. Here the two forces set out for the coming battle.

John Woo is an action director and the martial arts and the battles are well handle, if OTT (but that's what John Woo does). He has flair and the fights are bloody. He has fun with the CGI, from the battles to following arrows and doves when they are in flight. He gets to combine both Asian and Hollywood style of film-making. The music as well combine both Asian and Western styles. The film itself feels like the Chinese Lord of the Rings.

Tony Leung is the strongest link in the film, he is an expert martial artist and a good actor, being in House of Flying Daggers, the Infernal Affiars Trilogy and Lust Caution just to name a few. He offers another good performances. Other actors also offer good performances and they was no one who dragged the film down.

In China and Hong Kong Red Cliff was split into two films and already out on DVD in Hong Kong. The Western version combines the films, and its also the dumbed down version. The English was just weird in context with the rest of film. The film also does change in tone from it beginning. Lets hope that the DVD release in the West will be of both films or an extended edition.
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6/10
Half and half
travellervn13 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In my own opinion, this movie is full of "half and half". It's claimed to be based on history (not the fiction "Romance of Three Kingdoms") however characters are hilarious, not serious as great politicians should be. It's supposed to be a movies with battlefields and strategies however parts with personal lifestyles are more than that. So, it's neither an entertainment movie (have so many killings and bloods) nor a serious movie about war (have so many jokes).

Characters of this movie are like from a TV series. Generals showed no special skill in fighting but can manage to kill all of enemy's soldier. Zhao Yun stood carelessly in the middle of a battle to persuade Liu Bei's wife to leave. All the weapons are put on Guan Yu's blade so that he can easily put them out. By a trivial shake, Guan Yu's can escape from all of enemy soldier's blade pointing to him. Zhang Fei crushed into the enemy with no weapon in hand. Zhou Yu used his own body to take an arrow for someone, and let the arrow stick at his heart's side. Wei's generals chasing a girl into a bunch of dusts without any doubts.

Nonetheless, officers are not better. After running away from Cao Cao, Shu's officers gave trivial analysis for the situation. All officers in Wu behaved like children during the discussion with ZhuGe Liang: noisy, messy, and no serious arguments. Wu's army was described as highly disciplined, but the general, Zhou Yu, could stop the training halfway to talk to a farmer and his servant. Zhou Yu was described as having a sharp ear but could not hear the tiger coming from behind. Again, Zhou Yu later gave a trivial lesion about the rope when other characters, big heroes, were listening seriously. Sun Guan could kill a tiger without any specific skill and training.

In other word, the director might want too much and go to nowhere. He might want a movie closed to history but his characters are not. He might want human-like heroes but his characters show no specific skill in both fighting and thinking to be real heroes/leaders.
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10/10
A Nutshell Review: Red Cliff
DICK STEEL12 July 2008
A friend of mine revealed to me that John Woo acknowledged parallels between characters in his movies, and characters from the Three Kingdom era, and that General Zhao Yun was one of Woo's personal favourites. This admiration for General Zhao's qualities cannot be more obvious when it is he who opens the first battle proper, with a very familiar character episode involving the rescue of the infant son (and future lord) of his master Liu Bei, thereby sealing his reputation of valor, earning admiration even from enemy Cao Cao. Fans of Liu Bei's camp will undoubtedly cheer at the appearances of his sworn brothers General Guan Yu (who is worshiped as a Deity until this very day, and remains one of my favourite characters besides Zhao Yun) and General Zhang Fei, whose gruffness translates to instant war-ready prowess. While Liu's army is clearly routed in a military loss, it explained the dilemma of Liu's leadership. One which is based on sincerity, a quality which persuaded his chief military strategist and genius all round Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to join his cause, but one which lacked military strength in numbers, despite having some of the best generals of the time under his leadership.

Which of course Cao Cao admires and probably is envious about, given his superior strength in numbers came from surrendering armies, whose loyalty remains questionable, and of course with individual generals who can't surpass the abilities of those from Liu. Playing the king like a puppet and having him issue a decree for permission to pursue Liu Bei who has fled southwards, he sets his sights also on warlord Sun Quan, for a more personal reason akin to the story of Helen of Troy. Zhuge Liang, knowing their current weakness, seeks an alliance between the armies of Liu and Sun Quan, and this forms most of the first half, where he had to play envoy to cajole and persuade, especially in convincing Sun Quan's most trusted adviser Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) that war is inevitable and they should form a win-win partnership.

And here's where great minds think alike, and watching both Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang do a friendly pit against each other is nothing short of amazing, where so little says so much. It helps of course that both Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro have been paired up as leading men on screen before, in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express and in Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Confession of Pain too, lending some much established and credible chemistry as men who share admiration in each other's ability, especially when Zhou Yu seemed to have a fairer balance between fighting skill and intellect. With one side having highly disciplined soldiers with good morale, and the other having renowned generals to be leaders, it doesn't take a genius to realize the advantages gained in fending off a common enemy together.

The fight sequences were pure spectacle, with old school wire work combined with technological wizardry to showcase some large scale battle sequences at a macro level, or to highlight the immense naval numbers that Cao Cao brings to battle. Formations and strategies take centerstage in a first major confrontation on land, where one gets to see John Woo's interpretation of Zhuge Liang's "ba-gua" (8 stratagems) strategy, made more entertaining through the continuation of what we have already seen in each general's fighting ability, each given a unique style befitting the characters in folklore, such as Guan Yu and his Guan Dao (Green Dragon Crescent Blade) and Zhao Yun (Hu Jun) and his spear. There's the usual bellowing cape and slow motion in Woo's signature style, but these were kept to a minimum, as are the pigeons (though they do make an appearance, but serving some purpose).

Perhaps it is the success of the fight sequences that had left some lamenting for more, but bear in mind this is just but the first half of the movie, setting things up. The major war sequences of course are left in the second movie which we will get to see come early next year. Like The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, expect the next movie to go on an all out assault. I felt that already is a fair balance of drama and action here, especially when this installment has to cover a broad base given numerous characters, which should provide fans (of Three Kingdoms) something to cheer about. Chang Chen provides his Sun Quan with enough self-doubt, and in a small story arc has to seek his inner confidence ala King Leonidas in 300, while model Lin Chiling's much touted debut movie appearance, was limited to just a few scenes of lovey-dovey moments, which unfortunately for audiences in Singapore, her sex scene with Tony Leung got edited out in order for distributors to get a PG rating to put more bums on seats.

I had wondered how Tony Leung would have faired as Zhuge Liang instead of Kaneshiro, but felt that the musical chairs casting somehow became a blessing in disguise. Kaneshiro's good looks might have made some doubt his ability to play the smartest man alive during the era, but he did an excellent job in bringing out the humility and self-deprecation of the man whose never flashy nor overconfident of his abilities, and one who swears his talents to his lord Liu Bei. Tony Leung on the other hand brought about a fine balance of brains and brawn to the Zhou Yu character, whom I suspect in Woo's version, would be credited with much success for his part in Red Cliff, rather than the accolades all going to Zhuge Liang. After you see the reliable Tony Leung in this role, you'll know for sure that Chow Yun-Fatt could probably never had brought the kind of gravitas Leung brought to the role.

Red Cliff is hands down highly recommended
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8/10
Surprisingly good mega blockbuster from a seasoned Master
PiranianRose12 November 2008
Admittedly, I had my doubts about Red Cliff. John Woo in the chair to make a historical war drama? That hasn't happened since... oh wait, it's never happened before. Then again, if Ang Lee could make a great movie about gay cowboys, I'm willing to see what John Woo can do outside his usual territory. That, and the film's steady high profile publicity over the past several years, made Red Cliff a must-see for me.

For Red Cliff, the biggest divergence from Woo's prime time classics such as The Killer is the subdued emotions. Most of Woo's classics were rather in-your-face in terms of melodrama, but not so in Red Cliff. While I loved his melodramas, I believe Red Cliff reveals a matured Woo with improved craftsmanship. Make no mistake: he has incorporated his signature themes of male bonding, loyalty, and sacrifice in Red Cliff--but in a much more subtle and understated manner.

Unquestionable, some viewers have loved Woo for his badass action sequences. But for me, I've always been a fan because of his memorable characters. To this point, I was pleased with Red Cliff's strong characters. The film has focused on making the central figures appealing by either embellishing them with an edgy factor or giving them some depth, and this is successful for the most part.

For me, the low point of the movie was the weak acting from Zhao Wei and Takeshi Kaneshiro -- not just compared to Tony Leung, but on any scale. Kaneshiro is an odd choice to play the historically glorified Zhuge Liang, while Zhao Wei's character seemed totally inconsequential.

The film also features some annoying cartoonish music, which seemed to be oddly misplaced in intense combat scenes.

Other than those few shortcomings, Red Cliff is a solid film that is both a mega blockbuster and quality film-making.
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4/10
Three Kingdom Cliff Notes
lyx-114 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
***Warning...may contain spoilers, but movie is pretty "spoilt" as it is...*****

I really wanted to like and support this movie. Three Kingdoms is one of the most fascinating historic period with lots of compelling tales of political intrigue, plot twists, larger than life characters, fantastical, famous battles, mind-boggling tactics and the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, fleshed out the historical structure further with fascinating myths, legendary details, etc....it is very difficult to go "wrong" with this material, and yet John Woo has chosen to chuck most of it away and dumb it all down for us.

The battle scenes were visually stimulating enough, and are the best parts of the movie, so savour them! What is interesting is to see the magnificence of the formations and tactics described in the books all meticulously CGIed for us.

Overall, this is a big budget production, and it does show in the lavish sets, costumes, impressive battle mobilization, etc. This is where I awarded the movie 6/10.

Forget the acting, the characters, the cringe-worthy dialogue, playing footsie with history (Liu Bei was actually rather cunning and he wove grass shoe soles while he lived under Cao Cao to hide his intelligence and ambition, he isn't the clueless good guy as portrayed), the insipid and totally pointless, pathetically contrived sex, the incredibly asinine jokes and lame puns ("fan" and "staying cool") stretched to unbelievable limits, the WTF? anecdotes (the stolen ox, the music improvization, and "Meng Meng", the baby horse).

Unbelievable!! The middle is a waste of time - there is so much more to add and to say, yet only extreme cinematic silliness and facile character portraits prevail. The contemporary equivalent of the three rulers are say, Mao, Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat Sen and their capable deputies, not to mention the brilliant women like the Soong sisters, can anyone imagine Zhou En- Lai spending his spare time during a period of war against the Japanese or Nationalists teaching children's songs to kids in school or writing calligraphy that insults his opponents???

The original texts are so rich with tactical details, ruthless, complex and brilliant characters and unpredictable plot twists, it would have made a far more interesting film the likes of LOTR. I wish Peter Jackson directed this gem, not John Woo. It's as if someone dumbed down and diluted the LOTR trilogy, into ....Narnia.

If you're looking for a more authentically "Chinese" film about the glory and horrors of war, brotherhood (not just between the 3 characters but the heart-wrenching element of civil warring, Chinese vs. Chinese, etc.), treachery, betrayal, love, honour, watch "Warlords". One of the best films ever...epic, complex, realistic, emotionally engaging and unforgettable. Red Cliff comes across as an epic farce in comparison to Warlords.
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9/10
I hope when this movie comes out to the West, I expect it to be at top 250 list, This is PERFECT!
rockyunderscore29 April 2009
Its been years since I last watched a great Chinese movie. Growing up in Malaysia, watching many Chinese movies, the one I most fond of was Wong Kar Wai, Tsui Hark, Stanley Tong, Jackie Chan and of course the masterful John Woo. In his movies, the elements he combined made his movie very unique and distinctive from any other Chinese films i've watched. His use of kinetic shots and slow motion gave a fresh look, if not, reinvented the action genre while Hollywood was still producing plain and boring action movies.

After nearly 18 years, John returns to Chinese cinema, with a big present install for all of us. And that is Red Cliff. Beautifully shot, big on scale, action-plenty, great performances and a smart adaptation of the historical epic, The Three kingdom makes this movie one of the best Chinese epics in decades.(with the exception of Hero) True to his style. After his last three films, i began to think whether John's losing his edge already or is it because the Hollywood system that was in the way. In this case, I choose to think the Hollywood system was the cause of it. Red Cliff shows he still have the similar trademark he use in his films. The only difference is that this movie is huge in scale.

The themes he use; brotherhood, humble and honor are one of the driving formulas which made his classic movies a hit with audience is still very visible here. Visuals are breathtaking as this is one of the greatest visual effect shots I ever seen in an Asian movie. For an Asian like me I'm very proud of that. The cinematic shots were stunning and beautiful. One which John's interpretation is still very sharp. The production behind this movie are mind blowing-ly HUGE. With the amount of extras and props used, makes any filmmaker-wannabe to ask "how did he do that?" I couldn't even imagine all the headache he has gone through for this movie.

Now, in terms of story telling, plot and character development, the elements which i mention up there surprisingly fits together. The pacing for each scene has a mind of its own. For action it goes into overdrive. Cleverly building in the battle and action, the scenes were outstanding. It almost has a classic hong kong action feel to it where every action seems to be very unpredictable. The dramatic scenes and character development fits like a shoe, as the acting boost up all the character's emotions. Whether its seriousness, ego, humor, sad or depressed all the characters has it. So, to my surprise I still can't get over the fact that John can still balance both action and drama together like he always did in his films. Two thumbs up for that. The plot came in quite well in timing. With no hesitation except for the small intro, it goes straight into the battle scenes first before any dramatic scenes take place. Slowly it builds up, from the inroduction of characters each revealing themselves in detail, to the forming of strategies to stop the invasion and ends in with an amazing climatic battle scene.

All in all, Red Cliff is one of the best movies in 2008 that I've seen. I'm gonna review Part II later. So to end this review. I gave it A MUST HAVE for people.

8.8 out of 10 ratings.
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10/10
Epic in feel and delivers on story telling
lu_morning25 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Why the negatives people? I love this movie so far. It's high class from the start. I think with the release of several similar movies in recent year, I must say this one stands out from the rest. I love the humanistic vibes to this movie. The battles and sceneries were all high class and it adds the human compassion to it all. Believe me, this movie has a lot of actions and fight scenes in it but it's really the human aspect and the story telling that drew me in. The two main characters in this movie Zhuge Liang(Takeshi) and Zhou Yu(Tony Leung) did a marvelous job of conveying pathos of war and peace. Pretty much all the cast actually did a very nice job. I love action scenes but I can pick on some fight scenes if I was picky but this movie is beyond reproach on some of these insignificant short falls. This is epic and I can't wait to see the 2nd part. This is really the prelude to the epic battle at red cliff but the build up was very nice. Reminds me of Lord of the Ring series in how it ended. Like the first part is the Two Tower and the second part is Return of the King. But unlike the Lord of the Ring, which I think has one flaw the parallel story telling of Frodo Gollum and the rest of the fellowship. Yes I know I might be sacrilegious to the book but I felt the mental struggle of Frodo and Gollum detracted from the movie. Yes those two are main arc of the book but I don't think it translate well in the movie. If I were to make LOTR an epic I would cut out most of the Frodo and Gollum scene and it would be one of the best epic story of all time. I feel this movie is of similar quality and I hope part 2 will live up to the part 1 and then some in terms of battle scope. Can't wait for it to come out. I am expecting Return of the King kind of battle. Thanks to all the cast and John Woo for such a good movie. I will buy when it goes on blue-ray. Bravo!!!
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4/10
I cannot believe how many people take this film seriously
Kilcoe20 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I do not normally comment on IMDb just like all other rational Chinese. But, I feel the urge to tell what this film is like from an ordinary Chinese's point of view. Just for a piece of information. People don't speak Chinese may still enjoy it because there is less distraction.

This film is outrageously funny in the most foolish way. It is the laughing out loud film of the year. We trash this film just like what people do to Transformer 2 in English speaking countries or even worse (By the way Transformer 2 is too considered a masterpiece in some non English speaking countries). This film is a complete joke.

The dialogues , OMG, People just chuckle all the way through the entire film(s), each line is more ridiculous than the previous one, not because it is funny but because it is idiotic. For example, helping horse give birth in the middle of a war ... then when the leading lady 'gently' cheers the newborn baby horse: "stand up", the cinema just burst into laughter. (Was it a joke? that can't be serious) To add to this they even give the horse a name: "Mengmeng". LOL, this is just too comical. There are so many lines, which will take so long to list. Some of the lines (including 'Mengmeng")became very popular and 'fashionable' in China simply because they are sooooo dumb and they represent stupidity now.

There are so many things distracting, e.g.:

  • The tension, eye contact or closeness (between faces) between Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung, we audience constantly fear that these two gorgeous actors were going to KISS!!


  • The fight scenes, again like Transformers 2, we cannot tell who is fighting, which one is which, who is winning, who is losing ... put in a simple way chaotic. My friend sitting next to me actually went to a nap and asked me to wake HIM up when the fight is over, because he did not want to miss the lines people were laughing at all over China.


  • Two people in ancient China, making out on a modern Western looking "king" size bed (even comes with two matching bedside tables)! This is anything but China.


  • A princess from ancient China strips off in front of a whole court to reveal a military map. NEVER! Forget about culture and class. Forget about her skills as an artist. She made it by writing on that fool's head, at least part of it. WOW ... they both can join the circus.


  • Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung communicating by playing fancy ancient Chinese instruments ... we just do not buy this, forgive my language, bullshit.


(Kongfu Panda makes more sense!!)

Frankly, the visual are not original or outstanding. It looks worse than standard Hollywood epic movie, including some copy and paste from 300. The only major difference is that people are in Chinese warrior costumes. And, the music is cheesy and repetitive.

All these clichés and irony are so obvious to Chinese speaking audience while so unclear to Non Chinese speaking people. If you saw this film in a cinema, and some people were laughing or some eye balls were rolled, and you wonder why ... this explains some of it.

But, this is John Woo, when he makes a movie. If it is in English, people speak English laugh. If it is in Chinese, people speak Chinese LAUGH.
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7/10
Looking forward to Part Two!
charlie_ishiyama9 November 2008
Thanks to my previous knowledge on "Sangokushi" or Three Kingdom Saga in Ancient China, I enjoyed the outstanding performance and the dynamic war scenes. The movie also succeeded to dramatizing Sun Tzu's "The Art of War". It was exhilarating to see outnumbered allies made full use of the strategy and fought against their common enemies and ran a dead heat.

Usually I do not expect story or drama stuff being described in the action movies but "Red Cliff" betrayed my expectation in a good sense. There were several scenes that touched my heart. For example, two genius war generals who belong to different lords met for the first time and they instantly understood that they were hard-to-get friends by playing musical instruments together, without using any tricks or politics.

In a newspaper article a veteran charismatic movie buyer from Avex had foretold "Red Cliff" would take academy awards right after he finished reading the script. Though his hitting ration was high, I was not sure if he would raise his ratio and salary in the future. But I was sure that Tony Leon had a dominating presence through the scenes and it was highly possible that he would be nominated in his acting.

Actually I saw a lady stood up to go to the rest room during the highlight, and some left before the end roll skipping the trailer of part two, and after the trailer I heard a girl behind me complain against her excited boyfriend about dozens of characters who had lost her. I thought some previous knowledge would be important to fully enjoy this historic war movie.

Basically the movie was created for everyone because John Woo focused on the battle of red cliffs which was one of the best highlights in the saga, cleverly avoiding another digest version. Also there was a brief explanation about history and people at the beginning being accompanied by easy-to-understand Japanese subtitles crafted by Natsuko Toda. Personally I wanted to give my big hug to John Woo, actors and actresses, all the staffs, and their accomplishment "Red Cliff" (Part One).
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6/10
Dull Fight Scenes & Dialogue, None of the Irony and "Romance" of ROTK
Aegharis11 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First off, I am a huge fan of ROTK, I've read the complete unabridged novel. I was very excited for this movie, I've always thought ROTK needed a big screen adaptation. Comparing the novel with the movie though, the movie lacked the excitement, tension, irony, and romance that the novel had.

After the first fight scene which contained one of the most memorable scenes from the novel and the movie, the fight scenes and their choreography got way too repetitive, which, coupled with the 30 minute long battle scenes, I had myself thinking, ah, this isn't as good as I thought, when will they be done with all this repetitive glaive (chinese spear) stabbing crap?

When the fight scenes were finally done, the political intrigue wasn't as enticing as I had hoped either. I was really hoping for Zhuge Liang to be built up as the superhuman genius from the novel, I was really looking forward to the movie walking the viewer through his brilliant thinking and tactics like the novel did. The novel did such a wonderful job of showing how clever Zhuge Liang was. He was always one step ahead of his enemies, and his friends, he always knew what they were thinking in the novel, and when you thought he lost his mind and made the worst move possible, later on you'd realize, he really made an ingenious move and took everything into account with his battle strategies and tactics. The movie didn't show as much of his brilliant planning as I had hoped. To build up tension and excitement for the fight scenes and to make them truly exciting and to make the viewer feel the flow of a battle, I think showing Zhuge Liang's ingenious planning is absolutely necessary, the movie lacked this.

What they did show was a bunch of love scenes with Zhou Yu and his wife and Cao Cao and his mistress. I mean c'mon, a love scene gets like one paragraph in the novel, and Zhuge Liang's meticulous planning gets like 50 chapters, but in the movie we get more screen time of characters feeling each other up than seeing Zhuge Liang larger than life exploits.

You also get a lot of screen time for Sun Shang Xiang, they've made her a critical part of the movie and she actually participates in the battles, I thought this seemed a little silly and it took away from the urgency of the battles, at least when compared to the novel. I thought they could have done such a better job with the battle scenes, actually all of the scenes.

I guess we'll have to wait for another adaptation for ROTK to get the treatment it deserves.
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7/10
A let down
KineticSeoul15 October 2009
The title may simply be titled "Red Cliff", but the Battle of Red Cliff was a decisive battle in Chinese history that was fought after the Han Dynasty. And the whole 2 movies revolves around this one grand battle. I never found John Woo to be a director that makes a movie with great plots, but what he does excel at is in the action and this movie definitely delivers in the action department although not as much as I expected. The battle scenes were well choreographed, some of the flaws in this film is that it has unnecessary scenes that drag this movie when the time can be used effectively more on the actual history, other characters and more of what went down. I thought the actors did a good job, especially Takeshi Kaneshiro which was a shocker, but he played his character very charismatically. But that is also another flaw of the movie, they only delve into only a handful of characters and the rest that contributed a lot to the war just seem like cardboard. John Woo may not be a good screen writer, but besides the battle the other scenes just dragged the film and although few were very good. You will need some patience to sit through the whole movie, maybe I expected too much cause I was left disappointed. There was lack of tension and even the direction and development to be lacking. Despite the flaws the budget really showed in this film with it's sufficient battle scenes. Some that isn't really into the adaptation of popular Chinese history will find this movie sort of boring. I am going to say it, a lot of people who are fans of "Dynasty Warriors" a video game series at least found this movie to be amusing.

7.2/10
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7/10
Red cliff!
helmutty12 July 2008
To be honest, I don't really know about the Romance of the three kingdom so I will start my review about the movie with no reference to the Chinese history. I have watched Daniel Lee's Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon and it is just average. I have only seen one movie based on the Romance of the three kingdom. John Woo makes his comeback as a director after so many years. I think it is worth the wait for his highly anticipated movie.

The story: In Singapore, the movie is split into two parts. The second part will be shown next year. This movie is an introduction to the Romance of the three kingdom. The first war starts when the movie starts to hype up those craving to see some good war battles. After the first war, you will get introduction of the characters slowly. After the slightly slow pace, you are treated to another war. The acting is good with the humour. I think model Lin Chiling should be given some credit as she marks the first acting debut in a Chinese blockbuster.

Overall: It has both the talk and the action. I must say that it is one of the recently interesting war movies with extended war battle unlike the other recent war movies. It should be good to watch it in cinema. This movie is good for those who want to know about the Chinese history or those who want to see the Chinese history in action.
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3/10
John Woo's "Chi Bi": Inspired by History, Influenced by the "Classics"-- but Made Just for "Fun"
dont_b_so_BBC28 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I usually try to take note of movie publicity because expectations justifiably and inevitably shapes appreciation-- but I didn't "connect the dots" when John Woo said he wanted to make an "upbeat" movie about the historical battle at Chi Bi (literally "Red Cliff", by the Yangtze River) in the winter of 208 CE and aimed to reach the level of "Troy" (2004). I mean, how do you make an "upbeat" war/historical movie unless it is some kind of fantasy or comedy, where the violence/politics won't really trouble you? And apart from the size of its production and budget, Troy doesn't really set any admirable standard in film-making....

In short, I found this movie "interesting", though neither "enjoyable" or "unbearable". So this movie may be worth your time/ money if you want to see John Woo have "fun" with a historical event or the sight of certain actors in period costume/roles -- just don't expect a new movie "classic" (even the "fun" or comedy is nothing special) or John Woo to rise above his "level" ("gun-fight" style editing). This is because, having some idea about the events at Chi Bi, I couldn't help noticing that John Woo's "Chi Bi" doesn't really "build on", let alone "measure up to", the prevailing "classics" inspired/influenced by the historical battle-- i.e. the 14th century novel (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) still re-printed annually, the 1990s CCTV drama series based on the novel (now on DVD), or the computer/video games (Dynasty Warriors, etc.) currently in their 10+n'th versions, etc..

That is to say, it doesn't have the epic sense of tight plotting in the novel, rounded characterization in the TV series or audacious fun of the games, etc.-- and for almost every good or workable new idea in the movie and there is some kind of "mis-step" which undermines it, so that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. This might have something to do with the way John Woo went around commissioning separate scripts (NOT re-writes) for the movie and then "combining" the bits that he liked (no legal/copyright issue here, since the writers were all duly paid and credited) right up till the time shooting was scheduled to begin-- when Chow Yun-Fat purportedly left the production because he did not have a complete script. For example:

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*

1) Zhuge Liang dusting himself off in Sun Quan's court and raising a cloud of dust-- would have shown how far and fast he had traveled, but only showed that he was too scatter-brained to dust himself off properly before entering.

2) Zhou Yu stopping military training to listen to a flute-- would have shown how highly he regarded music, but also made his military training look sloppy.

3) Sun Quan hunting a tiger-- would have shown the hunter's courage, if only there was the budget or effects to show a sufficiently fearsome tiger.

4) Liu Bei making shoes for his sworn-brothers and saying he's "used to it"-- would have shown his humble beginnings as a shoe-maker, except what does being "used to it" mean?

5) & so on and so forth....

If this sounds like a bad case of mixing Hollywood practices with the HK directors' habit of "shooting from the hip" or simply John Woo "biting off more than he can chew"-- well, it shows in the lack of an established sense of "flow", "scale" or "depth". The scenes move from point A to C and characters X to Z in a way that feels like a series of movie highlights, with the overall result resembling more the kind of costume drama commonly produced by the Chinese film industry rather than any significant milestone (other than the size of its production and budget) in Chinese movie-making. Not that old-fashioned (HK/John Woo-styled) Chinese costume drama is necessarily a bad thing, of course-- I mean, it's literally asking to be laughed at/ spoofed (the "humor" is that obvious).
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6/10
Could Have Been A Higher Cliff For Quite A Decent Epic
Archblood13 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
After John Woo's poor running in Hollywood, particularly with PayCheck starring Ben Affleck, the seasoned Hong Kong director seemed to be humbled, returning back to film making for the Chinese cinema. With Hard Boiled and The Killer being some of his early directorial achievements, Red Cliff may well be the his next Asian hit.

The story is based primarily on the historical records of the Chronicles Of The Three Kingdom with the plot involving the famous Battle Of The Red Cliffs (208 AD) in Ancient China.

The epic's chief villain is the infamous Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) Prime Minister of the Eastern Han Dynasty, who after seizing much power through manipulation and force, went on to fight against the righteous warlord Liu Bei and his loyal subjects including sworn brothers Zhang Fei (Zang Jisheng) and Guan Yu (Ba Sen Zha Bu) and general Zhao Yun (Hu Jun).

In desperation, Liu Bei enlisted the help of the brilliant strategist, Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to persuade Sun Quan (Chang Chen), Emperor of Eastern Wu, into an alliance before Cao Cao's army could completely eliminate his forces. The ensuring event led to the important battle in the Three Kingdom's records.

The stellar cast for Red Cliff also included Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Sun Quan's loyal strategist, Zhou Yu, one of the lead characters in the movie.

Supporting roles are played by Zhao Wei as the warrior princess and sister of Sun Quan, Sun Shangxiang. Taiwanese sex symbol, Lin Chi-ling starred as Zhou Yu's wife, Xiao Qiao who's historically famous for her extraordinary beauty that attracts even the lusty attention of Cao Cao. Overall, the roster of mostly Chinese stars (for the exception of Japanese celebrity Nakamura Shido as Gan Xing, general of Zhou Yu) succeeds in bringing Three Kingdom's character's to life.

Of course, what's an ancient epic without the necessary sword-and-bow battle scenes? Red Cliff's moments of bloodshed involving spear bearing soldiers and armour clad warriors is the main entertainment, obvious reminiscent of fierce combat seen in contemporary Hollywood films of past years including The Lord Of The Rings, Kingdom Of Heaven and even 300 (the Three Kingdom plot's also about a numerically inferior force against a bigger army).

However, the cinematography, decently done though, could have improved further..... much, much further. Shortcomings in this department have hindered Red Cliff from achieving an overall result of an excellent historical epic.

Lack of tension can be felt in story's development of the road to all-out war, lacking even in one key scene when Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu attempt to predict Cao Cao's strategy just as the latter was doing it at the same time or in another when Sun Quan was hunting a cunning tiger. Parts of the tiger hunt scene has suspicious signs of footages being borrowed from a wildlife TV program and the progress of other scenes are hampered by unnecessary transitional wipes which bear faint reminders of George Lucas' Star Wars. Maybe that's what Woo's getting on but it's just not working well.

Cinematography for Red Cliff's violent melee is also not working to the best of expectations.

There's a sufficient handful of moments when lone, highly skilled warriors engaged against a bigger number of weaker grunts but other than the usual blade clashes and the liberal spillage of blood, there's not much of an excitement in all these. The actions feel old, drained of fresh ideas and if you are to believe it, the movie's saving grace probably lies in the solid casting and the fact that Red Cliff's a faithful adaptation of popular Chinese history.

Still, because, the current Asian screening of Red Cliff is only part one of a supposedly four hour long movie, it might depend on the later half (reported to be released in January 2009) to complete Red Cliff as the epic it's meant to be.
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9/10
The Chinese version of "Brave Heart"
joechang-111 July 2008
Chi Bi should be translated as Red Cliffs, was written in the famous Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the 14th century, the story tells one of the greatest battles in the Chinese 5,000 years history, it took place in the turbulent years among warlords and nobles in the end of the Han Dynasty, about 180 years A.D., the most calculative cunning evil man of the Chinese history Cao Cao who was the Prime Minister of the Han Dynasty led a eight hundred thousand men army attack two opposition forces Liu Bei and Sun Quan in the southern China after uniting the north.

Liu Bei was famous due to his kindness to his people and his oath to his sworn brothers Guan Yu (was later honored as the God of Martial Art) and Zhang Fei. Liu Bei also received helps from Zhuge Liang, probably the smartest man recorded in the Chinese history as his Military Adviser and one of the best generals at the time Zhao Yun. Cao Cao envied Liu Bei's personal quality who can attract loyal comrades while Cao Cao himself is always in betrayal dilemma with his allies.

Liu Bei named his kingdom as Shu-Han, in order to defeat the northern invasion troops led by Cao Cao, Liu Bei had no choice but to seek for alliance from Eastern Wu Kingdom in Jiangdong led by Sun Quan. Liu Bei sent the talented Zhuge Liang to Eastern Wu to persuade Sun Quan and his best right-hand man Zhou Yu. Although Zhou Yu felt that Zhuge Liang along with Shu-Han will be a future threat to Eastern Wu, he decided to form alliance for the time being with Shu-Han to resist the invasion by Cao Cao. The battle took place in a pass on the Yangtze River called Chi Bi, AKA Red Cliffs.

John Woo did a fantastic job in portraying the characters in the book of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, all the actors and actresses are the best in the contemporary Chinese cinematographic circle, the battle scenes are great, and this movie is the highest budge film in the Chinese film industry to date. It is a MUST see if you are interested in the Chinese history.
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9/10
Very entertaining and amazing visual effect!!
megalembayung115 August 2008
Bravo to john woo, he made the Chinese movie like Hollywood style.. people can see amazing visual effect which is like we see on Hollywood movies. We see mostly visual effect used in like futuristic cinematography but this one is used with historical cinematography which made people obsessed to watch it... The story itself is not bad though i don't know any history of three kingdom but the red cliff made me keep watching the movie to learn the story itself...

I must say this is entertaining Hollywood style move but not kind of Oscar type movie...

Cant wait to see the 2nd part.. Anyway is this movie a box office in Asian continent (especially hongkong, taiwan, and china)
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5/10
Disappointed by this over-the-top production
les696926 March 2010
I suppose I should have known better, since I cannot think of many John Wo films that I have enjoyed, but the trailers for this film looked good so I thought I would give it a try. As usual John Wo goes way to much over-the-top with his silly portrayal of what must have been incredibly clever battles. Lots of explosions and scenes clearly borrowed from a number of other films all mashed together to make what should have been an excellent movie, since the story was a very interesting and exciting one. And he even gets a game of soccer into the film? Did they really play soccer in China back then? The so called sex scene was silly, it was too long and really just showed too people hugging a lot. If you are going to do a sex scene then do it, but don't do it as if this was a bollywood movie. Why have such graphic violence then be coy about nudity or sex? There are some good actors in this film but the poor direction spoils this film. Only a few of the better produced battle scenes make this watchable, but I doubt I would watch it again.
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9/10
Definitely worth your while!
yqddsz11 July 2008
I've waited for this movie to come out ever since I found out that it was in production, and after watching it yesterday, it was definitely worth waiting for.

To start off--the movie was paced rather nicely, where the battle sequences are intense but the dramatic parts of the movie are handled well so there's never a moment of boredom when you watch this movie and your eyes will not wander off the screen. My favorite parts though, are of course, Zhou Yu and Zhu Ge Liang's "battle of wits"! The plot line of the movie follows closely to that of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the historical novel that the movie is based on. The dialogue between characters is extremely well written (as some of it are based on historical books documenting the sayings of some of these characters). The characterization for its vast number of characters are done through subtle hints and gestures which is excellent -- for those who don't know the story and the characters, it gives them insight but does not irritate those who are familiar with the characters due to excessive spoonfeeding.

The acting of the cast is absolutely fantastic! Leung Chao Wei as Zhou Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhu Ge Liang, Zhang Zhen as Sun Quan, and all the rest of the characters are well-casted. Despite audiences' initial doubts that the casted actors could aptly perform as their respective characters, those doubts will undoubtedly be blown away after watching this movie. However, despite the stellar cast and acting, the downfall of this movie is also in its casting choice and acting (which is why it only garnered a 9 rather than a 10 in my book). Lin Zhi Ling as Xiao Qiao was okay, considering that this is her first movie, but there were parts when I felt that the dialogue was really forced and unnatural...fake, even. I'm referring to the part when her character is first introduced to the audience, but besides from that she was okay and wasn't detrimental. However, Zhao Wei's character Sun Shang Xiang was the biggest failure of the movie. It wasn't Zhao Wei's fault, as it is actually the scriptwriters' fault for adding such forced and unnatural screwball comedy to the movie in hopes of lightening it up. They could've dealt with humor through subtle measures like in Zhu Ge Liang's character rather than blatant stunts of trying to appease the audience.

All in all, it was a fantastic movie and I'd suggest EVERYONE watch it. For once, the brilliance of ancient Chinese weaponry and military tactics is being publicized and could be appreciated.
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1/10
Absolute garbage of a movie. Might contain spoilers
melee-314 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Hard to decide where to start...... so much of it was THAT bad, so let's begin with this period in books.

I've read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and sanguo (Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms) and the parts of the zizhi tongjian that cover this period. (translated into English). I love The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but prefer the historic books, and I went into the theater with hopes that it would follow history, as it was marketed as doing.

If you knew a little about the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, and hoped to learn more, you will be seriously disappointed. You'll come out of the movie more confused than when you went in.

The generals of all sides were not believable in their roles.

The battle scenes were great, if all you want is mindless, meaningless action...... but unrealistic and stupid.

So much of this film was spent on fluff and nonsense ...... for a movie supposed to be based on history instead of the romance novel, there is way too much time spent on romance.

My biggest complaint... it is a two part film, with part two coming in what... a year? How can this be sold as Red Cliff, since the main parts are in the next part of the film? This movie was 2 hours and change and you can figure the next will be about the same. There have been MANY famous movies between 3 and 5 hours in length, such as Gone with the Wind, Gettysburg, Spartacus and The Ten Commandments.

Why didn't they do the job the right way, and the honest way, by putting the films together? Putting them together would have made a complete story, but they chose to soak the viewers more by breaking it up..... and selling you only less than 1/2 of the battle.

Lee Shackelford
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2/10
150 minutes of boredom! Disappointing!
pointman-714 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
To me, this movie is a big over-hype disappointment! Romance of Three Kingdoms is such great story based on history, and the Battle of Red Cliff is THE MAJOR EVENT! I was very much looking forward for this movie, but I guess John Woo is just not Peter Jackson! I would have thought he should have learned a lot from his Hollywood experience. Turn out that my opinion of him as an over-hype average Hong Kong director is right on, just like Tsui Hak!

First major problem is the script! Instead of follow the original story, which is already full of detail, they added in many unnecessary elements, such as Zhou Yu help his wife deliver a horse! According to John Woo over a TV interview in Singapore, it supposed to make Zhou appear more human, but the whole scene is just so pretentious!

The part of Zhou Yu and Zhu-Ge Liang playing musical instrument and the final battle scene was also overly long (OK, this part is just like Peter Jackson: King Kong dinosaur stampede scene!)! It just go on and on, and I was really bored! There were just too many pacing problems in this movie. It could easily trim by 30 minutes, instead of 150 minutes of boredom! The kind of problem commonly happened to Hong Kong movie. The script obviously written by some Hong Kong scriptwriter!

Some reviewers said there was element of brotherhood, just like many other John Woo movies. To me, the brotherhood element in Red Cliff is paper-thin!

As for the music score, it just sounded too Japanese! HELLO! It supposed to be Chinese Classical Story! And the beating drum just sounded too much like Crouching Tiger score by Tan Dun.

Special CGI effect of Red Cliff is passable, but the concept is certainly very wrong! Red Cliff is part of the Yangtze River, and it's so broad, you can't really see the other shore! Red Cliff production designer decided instead to make it look more like scenic Guilin in Guangxi, which is totally wrong! It certainly looks quite narrow for big naval battle!

Action choreography was boring, and stupid sometime! Action choreographer Corey Yuen seem not sure whether to design it as fantasy martial art form or realistic martial art form, and some scene is just ridiculous! Maybe they think audience taste is still stuck in the 70's Shaw Bros era! Most generals should be fighting while riding horses, but instead they walk and fight most of the time! Maybe they should be equipping their actors with better riding scale or use a stunt doubles!

Actor wise, mainland actor Zhang Feng-Yi (as Cao Cao) was the only outstanding one. Tony Leung Chiu Wai appeared tired. Takeshi Kaneshiro looked full of confident to the point of almost clueless! Lin Chi-Ling was more like a flower vase! The rest of the casts were just passable. Maybe there weren't much chances for them to shine as characterization were poor overall.

Red Cliff is an overall disappointment, either as drama or action movie! If one really interested in Romance of Three Kingdom, go read the book, or maybe rent or buy the China made series! Even the Japan made anime Yokoyama Mitsuteru Sangokushi is much better!

And I certainly won't waste my money for the Red Cliff part II!
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