According to IMDB, The Assassins is the first directorial effort from Linshan Zhao and I find that very hard to believe. This is a very well crafted historical drama with is great set piece action sequences, a great story, with top notch acting and beautifully constructed look. I’m sure it helps that Bin Wang, the writer of Hero and House of Flying Daggers penned this one as well.
Based on historical characters and facts, but very obviously dramatized to make an exciting film, The Assassins tells the story of Gong Ling Ju (Liu Yifei) as young orphaned child she is taken into a dark dungeon type place with tons of other kids to be train their whole lives with one purpose to kill Chancellor Cao Cao (Chow Yun-Fat). There in the caves she meets Mu Shun (Hiroshi Tamaki) and they fall in love.
Eventually they are sent to Cao Cao’s court where Mu Shun becomes a soldier and Gong Ju becomes his mistress. From there we follow Ju as she struggles with her mission and getting to know Cao and realizing he is not the horrible person she has been taught to believe. Meanwhile Cao is having a power struggle with Emperor Xian (Alex Su) who sends a an army of assassins of his own to kill Cao.
As stated above, this is a very well constructed movie. There were a few moments where I got a little confused, but I found this to be more a cultural misunderstanding on my part rather than bad filmmaking. This story is based on events that took place around 200 BC in China, which is a section of history I’m not all to caught up on, though I am reading a book on the subject at the moment.
Chow Yun-Fat is fantastic as Cao. He his a cunning and thoughtful ruler (which is apparently not how Cao has been painted throughout most of history). The two best moments comes when Cao is confronting some on their treachery against him. First against Emperor Xian, then later against his own son, Cao Pi (Qiu Xinzhi). These scenes very tense and keep you on the edge of your seat never allowing you to guess what might happen next. I had to go back and watch both these scenes again after the film was over because I enjoyed them so much.
There are also several great actions sequences throughout The Assassins. Parts of one of them didn’t feel very historically accurate. I don’t think they had retractable grappling gun crossbows during the Han Dynasty, but I supposed I could be wrong.
The acting across the board is really good. Liu Yifei is wonderful as Ju and really brings her inner struggle to life. Her and Chow developed some great on screen chemistry.
As a whole, I don’t know how historically accurate this film is, but if you’re interested in Chinese history at all, or at the very least just a good Chinese action drama, then this film is definitely worthy checking out.
This film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Overall this is a great looking film. It’s well shot and the wire work is a lot of fun. However there are couple badly CGI birds that show up here and there and they are very distracting, but they don’t stick around long, luckily.
Behind The Scenes: (14 min.) This is a pretty good behind the scenes. You get some great interviews with the cast and crew and some good behind camera shinanigans. You also get the trailer.
As it’s become part of my real life paying job, I’ve started studying some about Chinese history and have found films like this to be a great introduction to certain historical moments. But it helps to go read up about the real people and see what really happened. It also helps fill in misunderstandings within the film.
Well Go USA Entertainment presents The Assassins. Written by: Bin Wang. Directed by: Linshan Zhao. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Liu Yifei, Hiroshi Tamaki, Alex Su and Qiu Xinzhi. Running time: 103 min. Rating: Not Rated. Released: January 8, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Chow Yun Fat