— by TOM ELCE —
The bizarre facial expression of an actor shortly into the new trailer for John Woo’s “Red Cliff” threatens to provoke a giggle-fit, but if the remainder of the appetizer for Woo’s latest spectacle is anything to go by, the movie appears to be more about tantalising action than thespian revelation.
It seems more of an event movie than a deeply-layered multi-biopic.
The cinematography looks stunning, capturing the aforementioned action (large-scale battles and foreseeably fatal tumbles and falls) with a visual prowess ordinarily reserved for the biggest Hollywood blockbusters (think back to the best parts of the cruddy “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies to have some idea what I’m talking about).
The story captured is that of the Battle of Red Cliffs of Winter 208/9 EC, Woo taking cue primarily from the historical text Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms for the narrative unravelling. This supposedly ensures a more historically accurate portrayal of characters Cao Cao (Fengyi Zhang) and Zhou Yu (Tony Leung), though that’s likely to matter less to Western audiences than in the film’s native China, where it’s already broken box office records.
On this brief glimpse, “Red Cliff” appears to favour traditional epic craft over the overbearing style of films like “The Curse of the Golden Flower.” At worst, it looks capable of providing titillation in the number of perilous sequences portrayed in the trailer.
“Red Cliff” will be unleashed on the U.S. Nov. 20.
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