Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by:Feng Li, Bin Wang, Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung,  Zhang Ziyi, Daoming Chen, Donnie Yen
Released: November 4, 2004
Grade: A-

As the most expensive Chinese film ever made, Hero was released in Asia back in December 2002.  Inspired by its success, Miramax Films acquired the rights to distribute it in America but held off releasing it until August 2004.  After topping the U.S. box-office in its first week, international markets are now capitalising on Hero’s success and after two years of waiting, it now is being shown in Australia cinemas.

China has an amazing history which we aren’t often exposed to on a big screen.  We continually see tales set in medieval times, American civil war times and World War II times but we don’t often look much further.  Set over 2,000 years ago, Hero is the story of a man who wants to unite the Six Kingdoms of China who are currently at war.  This nameless warrior (Li) has arrived at the doorstep of the King of Qin (Chen) and begins to tell the story of how he has slain the King’s three main enemies, Broken Sword (Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Cheung) and Sky (Yen).

I can’t say I fully understood all of this intricate story but the film deserves full marks for its visuals.  Director Yimou Zhang uses a beautiful range of colours and crafts some incredible martial arts sequences.  I don’t know if it’s any better than the already successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but suffice to say that if you enjoyed Tiger, you’re likely to enjoy this too.

I’m not often one to comment on sound effects but they are amazing.  One particular scene comes to mind where the Nameless warrior fights Broken Sword on the top of the lake.  We not only hear the “ching” of the sword, but also the gentle “splash” of the water below.  Throw in a haunting melody from Academy Award winning composer Dun Tan and you have one incredible action sequence.

Hero is a film of elegance and a great tribute to China’s history.