|François||3.5||A solid piece of epic cinema|
While sitting in my seat to watch this chinese movie, I wasn't very confident in its capacity to give me some enjoyable time. But some news on internet about it and the possibility to see it on the big screen were enough to convince me to give it a try. I was expecting a predictable blockbuster, with its advantage (high technical values) and lacks (predictable story, because of chinese censorship). But finally, even if there isn't any big surprise, Warriors of Heaven and Earth is a very decent epic blockbuster, well done, never boring, not without lacks but also full of qualities.
To have a good point of comparaison, people should remember Musa. WoHaE is close to the korean blockbuster in many aspects. A small group of Warriors protecting a woman, travelling in the same kind of landscapes, ending up facing hundreds of opponents in a fort. If Musa probably benefits of higher technical values, the Chinese movie is more interesting on several aspects.
First aspect, the story is simple but very efficient, there is no real hole or lack of rythm in the story, on the contrary of the korean film which was repeating itself during 3 hours. WoHaE is just two hours long, and still manages to develop some feelings for the characters. Then there are very solid actors, making a big difference with an average blockbuster. The two leading actors are clearly charismatic enough to make their characters real and impressive. Jiang Wen delivers a very impressive performance, and those who have already seen some of his movies before won't be surprised by his charisma. Nakai Kiichi also prooves that a good actor is a big advantage for this kind of impressive character. Vicky Zhao Wei on the contrary inherites a quite useless character, probably here to add a woman in the story.
The very solid cast is clearly a big advantage here, even if the story is not a masterpiece. But it makes the relations between the characters strongers. And it's not too predictable, which is quite surprising for a chinese movie where censorship usually makes it easy to guess who will win (the bad guy can't win of course). The directing and soundtrack are also very nice. However, the way the action scenes are handled won't please everybody. Even if there is an action director from Hong Kong here (Stephen Tung Wai), the fights are very realistic. It's usually one or two attacks, not more. This is not really the problem, it fits quite well with the tone of the movie. But the way those scenes are shot is not very "readable", just like in Musa. The spectator is very often in the middle of the fights, like in Braveheart. It surely gives a strong impact to this physical violence, but may also gives some headaches if you seat too close to the screen.
Overall, WoHaE is a solid epic movie, with some excellent performances from the cast and a good rythm and efficient storyline. No big surprise here, but also no big disappointments. Fans of the genre will find here a movie made according to the book. Recommanded.