Starring: Yun-Fat Chow, Li Gong, & Jay Chou
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Running Time: 114 minutes
When I used to work, I kept seeing this movie on the shelf and procrastinated on checking it out. Fortunately for me, an awesome friend (and my personal movie guru) surprised me with this Chinese periodic piece.
It was the eve of the Chong Yang Festival in the Imperial Palace and the Emperor has returned from his military conquests with his second son and general, Prince Jai, to celebrate. Behind the walls of the palace, many secrets are held. The Empress and her stepson, the Crown Prince Wan, have been having an illicit affair, but Prince Wan is secretly involved with the Imperial Doctor's daughter, Jiang Chan. Prince Wan and Jiang have been planning to escape the palace and live out their love freely. Meanwhile, the innocent Prince Jai worries about his mother's health as she continues to take medicine for her illness. Unfortunately, the medicine has been poisoned for days by the Emperor causing her health to deteriorate. Prince Yu, the last piece of the family puzzle, is stuck in the shadows of the drama and perhaps there's a fire burning inside him to change the way things are done.
I'm rather weary when it comes to period movies, but I really enjoyed this one. There was so much drama going on for such an upstanding family like they were normal people. The relationships, secrets, action, and betrayal kept the story interesting, different, and entertaining. As the movie progressed, my worries that this movie could possibly be boring gradually faded away and I was very grateful. There were a couple things that really stood out for me.
First off, which should be a given while watching the movie, the stunning visuals. From the costumes to the set, my eyes were completely overwhelmed by how amazingly detailed and beautiful every piece was. I couldn't imagine how long it took for them to dress up each character, style their hair, and apply their make up to something natural, but glowing. Then the scenery was just as fabulous as the costumes. The lighting matched the mood of the scene and it really captured the time period as well as the status of this royal family. I'll definitely have to go back in the extras to see how they pieced all those intricate designs together.
Second, I would like to commend the actor choices for this movie. All the characters were very convincing and you definitely had an opinion on how you felt about each one of them no matter how big or small the role was. They kept the story going smoothly as well as keep the audience's attention into wanting to know what's going to happen next and how secrets will be revealed as well as how that character is going to react to that new piece of scandalous information. Most of all, I'm so happy that the Empress wasn't a push over. She was a very admirable character and I truly felt sorry for her and the rest of the family. Lastly, I would like to add that the action sequences are pretty awesome too.
Obviously, this movie was a pleasant surprise and I definitely recommend this one for those who enjoy a good period piece set in China. It has a great story, stunning visuals, and believable acting. If you're a fan of movies like House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the like, then this is worth your time.
If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.