The House of Flying Daggers

"Excellent"

The House of Flying Daggers Review


A poet of the small gesture, Zhang Yimou moves on from his slice-of-life dramas Not One Less and Happy Times to the more broad, operatic strokes of Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. The resulting House is an astonishing work of cinematic beauty; filled with strong primary colors and evocative storybook forests of green bamboo or autumn leaves. The sound design is remarkable, staging a series of ritualistic combat scenes between policemen and assassins that are stunning in their brevity -- focusing the attention on the swish of cloth, the murmur of breath, or the rush of a cool breeze.

That said, House of Flying Daggers is basically a love triangle set against the backdrop of an epic political struggle. As the Tang Dynasty wanes and the emperor drowns in incompetence and sloth, an underground movement known as the House of Flying Daggers takes action, Robin Hood style. As they rob from the rich and give to the poor, the police decide to infiltrate this underground through the capture of their sleeper agent, a blind dancer, Mei (Zhang Ziyi), hiding out at the classiest brothel in town. She is drawn out by police captains Leo (Andy Lau), a stern disciplinarian, and flirtatious pretty boy Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro).

This leads to a series of captures and reversals where, of course, "no one is as they seem". Before long, an undercover Jin is on the run with Mei through endless woodlands with Leo in hot pursuit. Jin's plan is to track down the leader of the Flying Daggers, but he didn't count on falling in love along the way. The House of Flying Daggers charts their romance through physicality; as their love grows, so does their physical contact. Touching her hand leads to the inevitable attempts at lovemaking, but can he trust someone who plays in deceit?

The love triangle brings back memories of high school crushes, unfortunately, or the instant love connection between Jack and Rose in Titanic. It's admittedly corny, though Zhang Yimou plays it completely straight. That's not what's so good about House of Flying Daggers (in fact, ending a movie so boldly operatic with two guys fighting over a girl feels somehow underwhelming). This film offers one big set piece after the next: impeccably choreographed tests of swordplay; fights set against the backdrop of fall transforming into winter mid-scene; dodging arrows and stopping swords with one's fingertip. Plenty of moments send the audience into a state of awe, or artistic arrest. It's enough to momentarily make you forget that the movie is about as substantial as that summer fling you had before college. It's a grand adventure told with beauty, charm, and cinematic grace.

The DVD includes commentary track, two featurettes, a music video, and storyboard comparisons.

Aka Shi mian mai fu. Reviewed as part of the 2004 New York Film Festival.

All flights grounded due to high winds.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Beijing New Picture Film Co. Ltd.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jin, Zhang Ziyi as Xiao Mei, as Yee, as Leo

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.