Friday, January 7, 2011
War Is A Many Splintered Thing
China, circ 1860- a powerful and destructive rebellion sweeps throughout China resulting in not only the schism of the land but of the people, in particular, three blood brothers who are torn apart from political intrigue, shadow dealings and love.
Whoa. I love historical epics because of their grand, sweeping nature, how they reconstruct worlds past and their larger than life stories. While Peter Chan's The Warlords certainly possesses all of these, what truly caught me was that is was also a character study. Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro play blood brothers, who long ago swore they would remain together and let nothing tear them apart, only to have their bond shattered when war breaks out. I am no expert on Chinese history, and for all I know, the story behind this film could very well be an embellishment, but damn if the human beings in this story don't ring true to the veiwers in terms of their actions and emotions. I think what truly struck me was that the three lead characters were not strangers- they were closely connected, and therefore, the things that affect one, affect all of them, abeilt in different ways. When the rebellion severs their bond, they can do nothing to remedy it, instead the rift between them grows and the power of betrayal grows too strong. You can guess that things will not end in wine and roses by the time the blood dries on the battlefield.
Now, this is going to sound awful, but I really don't have a lot of favourite Chinese films save for the occasional horror that is served up only to be remade to suit English-speaking audiences. While I will certainly agree that Hero was a gorgeous example of myth, ultimately it didn't have a terrible lot of substance. Same can be said for House of Flying Daggers. Yes, they looked absolutely gorgeous and sublime, but they did not possess rounded out characters that the audience can relate to on a deeper level, and I find that this connection, the human connection is what should truly matter when it comes to historical epics of heroism, rebellion and relations between individuals. While Jet Li has done his fair share of action, the role he has in this movie is so much more rewarding than simply kicking arse and being the Token Chinese Badass in most American movies. Andy Lau, who I've had my eye on for a while proves that he is an actor who truly does deserve international recognition because he has one of the most expressive pair of eyes I have seen and here he uses them to maximum effect. Takeshi Kaneshiro is a bit of an enigma to me- a dear friend of mine loves him (and I will admit he is kinda cute), but I have not seen a lot of his past work to truly compare it to his work here, but he delivers a fine performance nonetheless. If I ever see him in any other movies, I will be sure to pay more attention to his work.
Don't go thinking this movie is all about beauty because it ain't- this is a VIOLENT film, people die in horrendous ways, there is rape and torture, there is humiliation and the ugliness of humans in war. All the same, the content is not put in for shock's sake- it is showing the reality of war and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that it is one of the worst things humans can inflict on each other (and yet we still do it). It's also the kind of movie that makes you wonder that if you were placed in the position of betraying somebody who is close to you in a circumstance such as war, how would you feel? What would you do? What would your reasons be if you did or what would happen to you if you did not? This is the type of movie that has characters that everybody can relate to, no matter where you come from or who you are. I probably wouldn't watch this movie over and over again because it was a heady journey the first time around, but I can assure you that this film is an experience that must be seen to be fully comprehended, better yet, watch the Director's Cut to get the maximum effect of this movie.