Shadow 影 (2018) - China
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Zhang Yimou returns to form in the visually stunning monochrome palette framed film that dazzles with stylistic action sequences, intriguing imperial courtroom politics and well rounded performances from the well known Chinese cast. It’s been a while that Yimou gone epic and succeeded, think about the over the top “The Great Wall” for any indication, therefore it’s nice that “Shadow” is more closer to “Hero”. Set in the warring periods of China, we see the underlying politics, the cross platter of the Ying and Yang and the ideology of social class, King and servant and ultimately portraying the art of peace, love and freedom.
Deng Chao impresses as the “Shadow” commander as he portray the internal turmoil of personal ambition, goals, identity and love all intervened within a tormented soul. When he eventually gives in to the beautiful commander’s wife played by Sun Li, it feels natural like two lonely souls connect. Sun Li does extremely well as the heroine and holds her own against the male dominated court. Her opening scene remains the best and most memorable. Ryan Zheng as the seemingly weak King of Pei shows the kind of leader that cannot be trusted and move his pieces as he wishes for his own personal benefit. Deng Chao (in a duo role) as the real commander is heavily disguised in make up, but his randomness and strategic plotting makes the film more complicated than it is.
All in all, “Shadow” remains Zhang Yimou’s most impressive work in recent years and the fact that he dwells on the colour, palate, raindrops and well choreographed fights. For acting, he allows the key players the attention to shine and balance it with a layered plot line. What we see is that Yimou matured in his execution since his last masterpiece in “Hero”, by blending the flaw human nature in every individual including the King and everyone involved. It is an admirable effort that remains every bit epic and resonating.
I rated it 8/10