Well I watched LBS today. And I must admit I am always a little apprehensive watching a movie that has received a lot of praise in the media because somehow they never QUITE live up to expectations. However this was after all JACKIE CHAN and I even sat through Spy Next Door TWICE (just to make sure it was actually as bad as I thought it was the first time - but that is whole other story) because it was a Jackie movie. So it was with some anticipation, a little apprehension and a lot of expectation that I sat down this afternoon to watch it.
I need to watch it again because there are a lot of aspects to the movie that need a second or third or fourth viewing to fully get your teeth into all the depth of meaning - which quite frankly I just LOVE in a movie so this is a LITE review - which is kind of like LITE yoghurt - tastes OK but lacks substance - LOL.
So first impressions - oh what a delight an opening sequence that actually sets the tone for the rest of the movie and establishes the premise and background of the movie effortlessly. The opening scene is just as brilliant at setting the tone and characters of the two main protagonists as the title is at setting up the whole movie - the funny thing is that you don't appreciate just how incredibly well the essence both characters is encapsulated in that opening scene until after the movie (like now) and you take a moment to think about it.
There is wonderful balance between big and small in this movie. The entire movie moves effortlessly between a very large canvas (whether in landscape or storyline) and the very small. And I felt such joy watching the scenes that did portray the large landscape - one of the things I bemoaned the lack of in The Forbidden Kingdom was the lack of good utilization of the incredible scenery in which the film takes place and this movie more than makes up for any lack in TFK. Acadamy Award nominee for best cinematography Zhao Xiaoding proves his skill behind the camera in this movie. His technique/skill in filming small close almost intimate scenes is as good as his skill in filming the broad sweeping landscapes which are never allowed to overwhelm the characters.
As I said earlier the film is about the contrast between big and small, the contrast between the 'BIG' General and the 'small' soldier, between the 'BIG' concerns of the State and the 'small' concerns of ordinary citizens, between 'BIG' complex relationships to do with the accession of Kings and 'small' friendships. This is played out at all levels in the movie from sweeping landscapes to small intimate moments with a baby bird, from vast wars to a single small death, from affairs of State to the simple longing of one man. Ding Sheng has done an incredible job with this movie, controlling the finest detail and maintaining pace, balance, pathos, drama, comedy, in fact at all levels this is a finely crafted well-balanced movie that was simply a pleasure to watch. I do not feel at all like I am exaggerating if I say this is the best movie Jackie has made. Ever. It is all I would have hoped for if Jackie ever made a movie with Zhang Yimou while at the same time being entirely different.
Jackie was simply brilliant in this movie. The character he played fitted him like a glove. In a way all the things that Jackie, as a man, believes in were expressed in this movie. The depth of caring for the environment, his attitude towards life, and his desire for peace were all there, and while the man was 'small' he was somehow far greater than the General.
Lee Hom Wang unfortunately lived up to my expectations. I was somewhat underwhelmed by his performance in 'Lust, Caution' thinking that he brought a very limited range of emotion to the part and very expressionless face. Well he didn't bring any more expression or range to this part but as usual Jackie's casting is brilliant because the character of the General is somewhat expressionless and lacking in range so all in all it works incredibly well.
There is a lovely feel of genuine liking between Jackie and Lee Hom Wang which is transferred on-screen, even when there are moments of annoyance and dislike between them, you feel that the development of affection in their relationship is natural.
I am going to save a more indepth analysis of the movie for when I have had a chance to see it a few more times but for the moment I want to say that this movie gets a firm 10/10 from me. It was an emotional journey from beginning to end that swept me along with it, I am left WANTING to watch it again and the end had me in tears. It was GREAT! I can't wait to do it again tomorrow.