Starring Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Guan Xiaotong, Hu Jun, Wang Qianyuan, Leo Wu, Wang Jingchun
(6- Good Film)
Stylized. Spare. Arresting.
Director, Zhang Yimou, is a prolific storyteller and consummate showman. A filmmaker with countless classics in his filmography. His newest film, Shadow, is reminiscent of two of his very best, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, in its colorful use of ancient Chinese history blended together with almost comic book visuals and stylized action. Deng Chao stars as Jingzhou, a servant who looks exactly like his master, Commander Ziyu, and has assumed his identity for a time while the Commander heals. The Commander, loyal to the kingdom of Pei, lost a one-on-one battle with the powerful Yang Cang, leader of the rival kingdom. The intrigue runs deep but not deep enough for me, a devoted fan of The Prisoner of Zenda and even Yimou’s own Hero. Shadow hints at a great many directions but never fully follows through on them. For example, the illicit romance between Jingzhou and his master’s wife, Xiao Ai (Li), is unsatisfying. The secrets aren’t really that secret, it turns out, and this historical epic isn’t that epic. Shadow eventually resembles more the old Hollywood cloak and dagger pictures than the historical epics and fantasy romances I hoped it would be. On the positive side, Yimou’s black and white color design is remarkable and the final battle sequence is stellar.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-