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••• The International Writers Magazine: Film Review

starring Matt Damon and Tian Jing
Director Zhang Yimou
• Helen Reynolds

The Great Wall

No, not a documentary on Donald Trump’s campaign promise, The Great Wall is set in ancient China, and the immigrants the wall keeps at bay are a race of green-bloodied, lizard-crawling, dinosaur things with mouths straight out of Alien. They aren’t there to take over jobs either, but rather to devour all in sight for their Queen.  

Luckily, the Chinese have been preparing for the invasion for over sixty years and have it all under control, their army is even colour coded as per Zhang Yimou’s cinematic trademark. It might not seem like his usual poetic plots, but the fight sequences won’t let you forget that this director knows how to interest an audience and create beauty in the glint of a sword. Expect extraordinary flights as soldiers dive into battle armed with spears, precise archery and a wall so badass, George RR Martin might think to upgrade The Wall in the North for the next Game of Thrones book.

The Great Wall Set in China, with an impressive Chinese army and a woman (Tian Jing) as a lead commander, you might be wondering where Matt Damon comes into it. Or maybe you’ve seen films like The Last Samurai and know that Hollywood will always bring a westerner in to show Asians how to fight. They cover for this by giving Damon’s character the story of a rogue soldier, whose fought in Spain, Italy, France etc. and knows many tricks, which allows him such expertise against an enemy he’d never even heard of before.

For a movie that has a monster acting as a metaphor for greed, and very archetypical characters, it’s surprising just how engaging it is to watch. Damon and his Spanish counterpart (Pedro Pascal) are a great fighting duo and hold a believable comradeship, as well as infusing all the expected humour. Romance between Damon and Tian Jing is quiet and never over-played, giving her space to be a strong female lead in her own right. The only disappointment comes from William Defoe’s character, who is hardly needed and has a story arc that even a talent like Defoe can’t do much with. 

Zhang proves he can bring to mainstream the flair and originality loved so much in his previous more artful works. Movies like Assassins Creed can only look on with jealousy as the acting and action combine in a way other films of its kind lacked.

This might not pair up with Zhang’s other works like Curse of the Golden Flower or Hero, but it does exactly what it promises, and does it with style.

© Helen Reynolds Feb 22 2017
Helen is studying for her Masters at Lincoln University

A combination of:
The Last Samurai (2003)
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
Robin Hood (2010)

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