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

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Advertisement
Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

The Light Between Oceans Movie Review

With a sweeping, picturesque setting and emotive performances, this dramatic epic will appeal to moviegoers...

The Accountant Movie Review

The Accountant Movie Review

While this slick dramatic thriller plays with some intriguing ideas and themes, it never actually...

Train to Busan Movie Review

Train to Busan Movie Review

Leave it to the Koreans to reinvent the zombie horror movie and put a high-speed...

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.