John Woo delivers on "Red Cliff's" reputation as the most expensive Chinese-language film ever made. "Red Cliff" is a mesmerizing war epic that concentrates on ancient techniques of military strategy as played out on a grand stage. Set in 208 AD, the 131-minute film hits the ground running as general Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) asserts his power over the Han Emperor Xian (Wang Ning), leading his troops south to conquer regional warlords Liu Bei (You Yong) and Sun Quan (Chang Chen). But Liu Bei has a secret weapon: a skilled advisor Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), whose brilliant counsel makes for some dramatic plot twists. The ensemble of actors including Vicki Zhao and Tony Leung Chiu-wai give stellar performances in a lush piece of mythic history. The balance of natural beauty, complex characters, wartime drama, and epic scale, makes "Red Cliff" a must-see movie. And you'll have something to look forward to afterward: the second half of the two-part series ("The Battle of Red Cliff") comes out in January.
Rated R. 148 mins. (A-) (Four Stars)
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