- 1 hr 39 min
In 2002, the Chinese film industry experienced a breakthrough with the release of Hero, a martial arts epic from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou. The film starred Jet Li as the nameless protagonist, with support from Tony Chiu-Wai Leung and Maggie Cheung in pivotal roles. Set in ancient China, Hero tells the story of a warrior known only as Nameless, who is summoned to the palace of the King of Qin. The King seeks to unite the warring states and become the first emperor of China, but his plans are threatened by three assassins - Long Sky, Flying Snow, and Broken Sword - who have vowed to kill him. Nameless claims to have killed all three of them and wants to be rewarded by the king.
To prove his story, Nameless must recount in detail how he killed each of the assassins. The first flashback takes us to the fight between Nameless and Long Sky, which took place in a desert. Long Sky used a spear, while Nameless has a sword. The fight is beautifully choreographed, with slow-motion movements and surreal backdrops.
Next, Nameless recounts the fight with Flying Snow and Broken Sword, which took place in a forest. Flying Snow and Broken Sword are a couple and are known for their deadly coordination. Nameless, being a skilled martial artist, manages to defeat them with calculated moves and unexpected tricks.
But as the narrative unfolds, it becomes apparent that Nameless's story might not be entirely true. The King of Qin, who is wary of assassins and mistrustful of people, questions the details of Nameless's story. He demands more information and a different perspective on the events.
Thus, the film tells the same story multiple times, with variations in each retelling. The audience is left to judge the truth for themselves. It is a gripping narrative structure, as it showcases the different interpretations of the events and the subjective truths.
The film's action sequences are a feast for the eyes. Renowned martial arts choreographer Tony Ching Siu-tung designed the fight scenes with a unique style, known as Wuxia. It is a blend of wirework, acrobatics, and swordplay that emphasizes grace over grit. The use of primary colors and elaborate set pieces gives the fights a surreal, almost dreamlike quality.
But Hero is not just a martial arts film; it is a meditation on power, truth, and sacrifice. The story explores the theme of whether it is justifiable to sacrifice a few for the greater good. The King of Qin, who seeks to unify the country, justifies his ruthless ways by claiming that it is for the greater good. But the assassins, who seek to assassinate him, are willing to die for their cause.
The film also showcases the power of words and stories. Nameless's retelling of the events influences the King's decision, and the three versions of the same story illustrate how words can be manipulated to serve a purpose. The film questions the idea of absolute truth and highlights the subjectivity of perspectives.
The performances in the film are remarkable, with Jet Li delivering one of his best performances as Nameless, a character torn between loyalty, duty, and conscience. Tony Leung, who plays Broken Sword, brings emotional depth to his character, and Maggie Cheung, who plays Flying Snow, adds a sense of vulnerability to her role.
The film's cinematography is breathtaking, with sweeping shots of deserts, forests, and palaces, and clever use of color to convey moods and emotions. The music, composed by Tan Dun, blends traditional Chinese instruments with modern electronic sounds, creating a haunting, otherworldly soundtrack.
In conclusion, Hero is a masterpiece of martial arts cinema, with stunning visuals, breathtaking action sequences, and a profound meditation on power, truth, and sacrifice. Directed with aplomb by Zhang Yimou, the film stands as a testament to the beauty and power of storytelling.
Hero is a 2002 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 39 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.9 and a MetaScore of 85.