Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Great Wall Film Review

I caught The Great Wall yesterday but it's been out for a couple of weeks. Directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Matt Damon as William Garin and Pedro Pascal as Tovar. They are mercenaries seeking the black powder in China. Actually a great comedic double act with Pascal particularly funny. While escaping marauding bandits they build camp but find themselves preyed upon by an unseen foe. William manages to get his sword to it and slices off an arm. Unlike any they've seen before. It isn't human.

With their colleagues killed by this unseen enemy, William and Tovar try to outrun the bandits. Straight into the waiting arms of the Chinese and their Great Wall. Where they are taken as prisoners by the battle ready Army of the Nameless Order that defend the Wall.

This is Zhang Yimou first film in the English language. And I loved it. Of course it hasn't been to everyone's taste. Fighting alien monsters across the Wall. But it was fantasy like The Lord of the Rings and the battle for Helm's Deep. And the aliens being no different to the fearsome Orcs.

The Nameless Army is divided into five units. Commander Lin Mae, played by the beautiful Tian Jing, is in charge of the Crane Troop and speaks English. As does Strategist Wang, played by Andy Lau. They learn how William and Tovar came to have the arm. On finding that it attacked them not far from the Wall the Army is mobilised. Having not expected an attack so soon.

A young soldier Peng Yong, played by Lu Han, is ordered to guard them, and the two men watch as green lizard type aliens called the Taotie attack. William tells Peng Yong to go off and join the fight. And they are subsequently released by another captive. Willem Dafoe's Ballard has been there 25 years. He too came looking for the black powder and now cannot leave as he has seen too much. But taught English and Latin to Lin Mae and Strategist Wang.

Now free, William and Tovar help defend the part of the wall they are at. Including saving young Peng Yang from the ferocious teeth of a Taotie.

The battle scenes were so vibrant and colourful. A fantastic drum corps beats the commands with each of the five units in brightly coloured armour playing their part. The Bear, Eagle, Tiger, Deer and of course the Crane Troop. A unit of gorgeous acrobatic girls, swooping like graceful dragonflies rather than cranes I thought.

As thanks for their help the two prisoners are hailed as heroes. And the Commander of the Nameless Order, General Shao, played by Hanyu Zhang, invites them to eat with the Army.

Meanwhile Ballard manages to speak to them about the amount of black powder contained within the Wall. And how they can escape with the valuable prize. A very tempting plan.

After dinner William explains to Commander Tian Jing how he came to be in China. Starting as a child in war with Harold fighting the Danes. And rising through the ranks until he became the skilled bowman he is today. But for him battle and fighting is about money. And for her it is about trust.

They have such different outlooks from different worlds. But work together to capture a Taotin that is subdued with a magnet that William owns. But now the battle really starts. At which time William, Tovar and Ballard plan to escape.

As a fantasy story about a possible legend of The Great Wall the film rattled along quite nicely. I thought it was a beautifully filmed epic. The Chinese actors and acrobats were amazing. I assume many performed at The Beijing Olympics. Very impressive.

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