House Of Flying Daggers (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/10/2004

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Gorgeous to look at and with stunning action sequences, this is a moving, beautifully acted film that will literally take your breath away – if you liked Hero, you’ll love this.

House of Flying Daggers is Zhang Yimou’s action-packed follow-up to Hero. It’s a testament to just how long Miramax sat on the release of Hero that House of Flying Daggers is set to open while the previous film is still playing in U.K. cinemas – it opens here on Christmas Eve after its premiere at the London Film Festival.

859AD And Unrest Throughout The Land

The film is set in 859 A.D. The once-powerful Tang dynasty is coming to an end – there is unrest throughout the land and the government are battling rebel armies, the most prominent of which is the highly secretive House of Flying Daggers.

When police captains Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kanehiro) suspect that beautiful blind dancer Mei (Ziyi Zhang) is the daughter of the deceased leader of the Flying Daggers, they hatch a plan in which Jin will spring her from jail and pretend to fall in love with her, hoping she’ll lead them to the headquarters of the rebel army. However, complications ensue when Mei and Leo genuinely fall for each other and various levels of deception are revealed.

Like Hero, House of Flying Daggers is an action drama in the wu xia tradition, which means gravity-defying fights that have a slightly fantastical edge to them. That said, the action sequences here put the fights in Hero to shame, as if Zhang Yimou were just warming up for the main event: highlights include the ‘Shields in the fields’ sequence; an exciting ambush in a bamboo forest; and a thrilling horseback chase.

The plot is excellent, although at times it seems like Infernal Affairs meets Romeo and Juliet. Crucially, House of Flying Daggers has characters and relationships that are deeply involving, something that was lacking from Hero where you never knew whether what you were seeing was real or imaginary. This is also down to the performances by the three leads, each of whom are required to undergo subtle emotional shifts as the plot unfolds.

Beautifully Designed With An Incredible Sound Track

The film is beautifully designed, with gorgeous photography by Zhao Xiaoding that makes terrific use of naturalistic colours and landscapes. It also has an incredible soundtrack – you owe it to yourself to see the film in the best sound-equipped cinema possible because the attack in the bamboo forest alone is astonishing.

In addition to the breath-taking action sequences and the deeply moving drama of the romance, Zhang Yimou also includes moments that are both erotic and shocking, such as a bathing scene in which Mei is forcibly stripped by both lead characters (separately). He also includes several intense close-ups of the actor’s faces that are hypnotically powerful.

Put simply, House of Flying Daggers is an excellent film that demands to be seen, thanks to exquisite photography, terrific action scenes and an emotionally engaging, deeply moving storyline. That said, there are moments towards the end where you suspect for a moment that the whole thing might be a sort of Monty Python-esque black comedy, but no matter – this is highly recommended and one of the best films of the year.

Film Trailer

House Of Flying Daggers (tbc)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 03:19

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