Hero (2002)

Hero (2002) DVD Cover
Email: NCS@NotComingSoon.com


5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Directed by:

Zhang Yimou


Tony Leung Chiu Wai Broken Sword
Maggie Cheung Man Yuk Flying Snow
Jet Li Lian Jie Nameless
Chen Daoming King of Qin
Zhang Ziyi Moon
Donnie Yen Ji Dan Sky


Wang Bin
Li Feng
Zhang Yimou

Action Choreographer:

Tony Ching Siu Tung



Mandarin (Dolby Digital 5.1)



Video Signal:


Zhang Yimou's (Raise the Red Lantern) Hero will inevitably be compared to Ang Lee's (Ride with the Devil) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (CTHD) by western critics. After all, both men are considered art house directors. Both films are filled with Mandarin speaking sword fighters flying through the air and have Zhang Ziyi, not to mention the other leads of both casts are from the Asian A-list and familiar to westerners. So, why bother to see Hero? It is an entirely different movie. CTHD was about Chow avenging his master and Zhang growing up. Hero is about the fate of Qin (China) as personified by the king and its effect on the lives of two people who have a severe political disagreement but will love each other until they die. Oh, and there is some stuff about wants of many versus wants of few.

Nameless (Jet Li Lian Jie) has slain the wanted assassins Sky (Donnie Yen Ji Dan), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and the King of Qin (Chen Daoming) wants to hear how a previously unknown minor official accomplished this. Most of the film in is flashbacks from Nameless' tale. Nameless describes how Sky fought off the king's men but was vanquished by himself. He then used Sky's death to divide the lovers Broken Sword and Flying Snow. The story focuses on Broken Sword and Flying Snow who may or may not have been estranged for the last three years.

The production designer and cinematographer (Christopher Doyle) went to town. While the leads' costumes appear relatively simple flowing garments, four sets were needed because each set had to harmonize with its flashback and each flashback had a different color; red, blue, white and green. Not just the costumes changed but the interior design and sometimes the exteriors. The colors were even incorporated into fight sequences. In the red flashback, for instance, Cheung and Zhang Ziyi battle amongst golden leaves in their red garments. All of this is sumptuously photographed. Some critics will tell you that each color had a meaning. All I know is that Cheung's maquillage in the red scenes made her appear a scary cold hearted witch.

The comparison of action sequences to dance numbers is not original (that's why its called choreography) but the fights here are definitely balletic. Unless you can fly though the air, I don't believe you will see any moves that will help you in a real sword fight. This is not surprising as only Li and Yen are actual martial artists. However, all that whirling and floating fabric looks a treat and they are creatively photographed. Some of the shots of a fight between Nameless and Broken Sword are from under water as they skip across the surface, for instance.

Either CGI was used extensively for scenes of the Qin army or the People's Army played extras. The Qin army is immense though there are no big melees. They fire lots of arrows at a calligraphy school and fill what I assume is the Forbidden City, admirably representing the king's might.

The performances at first seemed wooden, the standard humorless people doing incredible things. However, as the movie progresses, repeating the story with an increasing level of accuracy, the performances deepen and the actual motives and conflicts between the characters emerge. Moreover, as the true events are revealed, I found I appreciated the earlier, more over the top versions, too.

Regardless whether one agrees or disagrees with the philosophy of Nameless and Broken Sword, Hero is a must see. It's a rich, dark chocolate truffle for the eyes.

Note: Hero received these Hong Kong Film Awards:
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Costume and Makeup Design
Best Action Choreography
Best Original Film Song
Best Sound Design
Best Visual Effects
It was also one of the five finalists for the foreign language Oscar.


Thumbnail of Nameless (Jet Li Lian Jie) and Sky (Donnie Yen Ji Dan)
Nameless (Jet Li Lian Jie) and Sky (Donnie Yen Ji Dan) (~25K)
Thumbnail of Sky (Donnie Yen Ji Dan)
Sky (Donnie Yen Ji Dan) (~29K)
Thumbnail of Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and Moon (Zhang Ziyi) fighting
Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and Moon (Zhang Ziyi) fighting (~31K)
Thumbnail of Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) preparing for action
Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) prepares for action (~17K)
Thumbnail of the King of Qin (Chen Daoming)
King of Qin (Chen Daoming) (~19K)
Thumbnail of Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) in happier days
Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) in happier days (~27K)

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