2004 Running time: 119 Certificate: 12 Rating: 4

Synopsis

During the Tang Dynasty a young soldier goes undercover posing as the protector of a beautiful blind revolutionary to escort her back to her colleagues and discover their whereabouts. Following in the footsteps of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this is a scintillating cinematic experience from master of the art Zhang Yimou.

Director

  • Zhang Yimou

Cast

  • Andy Lau

  • Takeshi Kaneshiro

  • Zhang Ziyi

  • Song Dandan

Review

It's not as if Hong Kong cinema didn't exist before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but since Ang Lee's universal crowd pleaser wowed audiences with the wire-fu choreography, a whole host of movies have attempted to rival the Oscar-winning masterpiece.

Should House Of Flying Daggers showcase the Zhang Yimou's vision as well as its companion movie Hero, it's destined to be the most successful export of the year.

Set in 859 AD during the rule of the Tang dynasty, civil unrest wages throughout the land. The corrupt government battles with rebel forces, protesting at the decline of their nation.

The largest of these rebel armies is the titular house, a group whose power is increasing under a mysterious new leader.

In an effort to quell the uprising, two local captains are ordered to track the new leader down.

Believing that a blind revolutionary by the name of Mei, played by Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi, is the leader of the Daggers, the two officials hatch a plan to find out the exact location of the group, using Mei as bait.

Thus the film becomes something of a road movie. The two central characters - the dashing captain and the head strong Mei - threaten to fall in love despite their individual allegiances and are attacked at every turn by the local henchman.

In amongst the many twists and turns that the plot takes, it's noticeable that the movie could have stepped up a gear and become something of an epic war movie.

But instead, the story remains centered on the lead characters, becoming more Romeo And Juliet than Troy.

Not that that should imply a lack of action - on the contrary, a Crouching Tiger-esque treetop fight is as equally exhilarating as Ang Lee's sequence, while anything involving the physics-defying daggers just HAS to be seen.

The cinematography is second to none, while the sound is so bracing it'll clean your speakers.

If there is a criticism, it's that the fight sequences are somewhat repetitive. Same fight, different location. But the fights are so good to watch, what does it matter?

At its heart, The House Of Flying Daggers is a love story with some incredible set pieces thrown in for good measure. What more could you want from a movie that looks this good?

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