A movie review, why you should see ‘Red Cliff’


Red Cliff follows a group of legendary generals who engaged in one of the largest battles in history that changed China’s history forever. The battle is said to have potentially involved hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Director John Woo returns to China after spending several years directing American films, his return is an epic one.

A military general uses political loopholes to declare himself prime minister of China. His army is expansive and a southern army is the last thing standing in his way. Two generals who have never considered themselves allies are united by a common enemy. They realize that only together do their armies stand a chance at being successful. The film culminates in the Battle of Red Cliff.

The movie is a gorgeous epic with a wide array of characters and legendary tales that is drenched in the art of war. The moral and emotional debates occur between characters and internally with each individual. Each soldier has a different reason to fight and the characters are brilliantly developed.

Red Cliff has been released on both Blu Ray and DVD in two different versions, a theatrical cut and international version. Think of it as the theatrical and extended versions of Lord of the Rings. The average moviegoer will likely want to enjoy the theatrical version. However, those looking for more character development and an epic runtime of nearly five hours will want the international version. The international cut is split into two separate movies, but the two are tied together very closely.

Why you should see Red Cliff.

Fans of John Woo will be absolutely blown away. After doing a long series of action films in China, he spent some time in America. Here, he found success, but his homeland seems to be where he truly shines. Moviegoers that have followed his career will be blown away by the level of maturity and mastery of his direction that is on proud display in Red Cliff.

Asian movie followers that have enjoyed the visually stunning epics from China such as House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero, this movie is straight up that alley. In fact, it seems that Woo’s approach to the movie was to make the formidable War and Peace of Asian cinema with the international version.

War movie fans will be able to appreciate the film. With moments where a tortoise is used to compare battle tactics, strategy plays a heavy part in the movie. Those moments often bring out character traits such as Zhang Fei’s bluntly speaking grunt approach to military tactics. With such a huge roster of characters, there are also diverse reasons for soldiers fighting, all of which are explored. Whether it be a wife, child, brother, country, or friend, each character comes forward with a story arc that brings them into the skirmish.

Finally, if the characters look or sound familiar to you video gaming nerds, they should. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the book that inspired this movie, also inspired the button mashing game series Dynasty Warriors.

Why you may want to see something else.

The action sequences are very well executed, but are spaced out by heavy character explorations and anticipation of the battle. After hour four it can become a little taxing, so the theatrical version may be better. If the throws of violence in battle are not something you wish to be a witness to, perhaps a lighter declaration of war in The Fantastic Mr. Fox would work better. Click here to see why you should see The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

If you enjoy this review, and want to get more instantly sent, subscribe to the blog. To get the latest movie news for the Denver Metro area and check out reviews of movies in theaters, check out Fowler’s Examiner page.

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