Confucius (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/09/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Despite a reliably solid performance from Chow Yun-Fat and some impressive cinematography, this is a painfully slow, frequently repetitive drama that has too many characters and is constantly weighed down by confusing battle sequences.

What's it all about?
Directed by Hu Mei, Confucius is based on the life of legendary Chinese philosopher Kong Qiu (Confucius is a Latinised version of Kong Fuzi, which means “Venerable Master Kong”). Set in 6th-century China, the film stars Chow Yun-Fat as Kong Qiu, a commoner whose renowned wisdom brought him to the attention of the Kingdom of Lu, where he became first Mayor and then Minister of Law.

However, after leading a powerful army to victory, Confucius falls foul of a jealous rival (Ma Jungwu) and ends up in exile, wandering from kingdom to kingdom and acquiring loyal disciples wherever he goes. As battles between warring kingdoms continue to rage, Confucius waits patiently for the news that his exile has ended.

The Good
It's hard to think of Confucius without seeing the caricatured image of a wizened old man with a long wispy beard delivering fortune cookie-style pronouncements of wisdom. Unfortunately, Chow Yun-Fat's performance does nothing to dispel that image, but he makes it work all the same, although he's curiously unfazed by, well, practically everything, including having to leave his wife and child behind.

One of the film's biggest problems is that there are simply too many characters to keep track of, but there are a couple of stand-out supporting performances, namely Quan Ren as Confucius' most loyal disciple and the beautiful Zhou Xun as a concubine who takes something of a shine to old Kong. In addition, there's at least one impressive CGI battle effect, involving a wall of fire.

The Bad
The worst thing about the film is that it concentrates too hard on the increasingly tedious battle sequences at the expense of the characters – every five minutes the Kingdom of Lu invades the Kingdom of Wu and the Kingdom of Wei invades the Kingdom of Shu and it becomes impossible to keep up unless you've done a degree in Chinese history.

Worth seeing?
This is a frequently tedious biopic that ultimately tells you very little about who Confucius actually was. Confucius, he say, “See something else”.

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Content updated: 12/12/2017 08:28

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