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Red Cliff ( ) is a Chinese epic film based on the Battle of Red Cliffsmarker and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. The film was directed by John Woo, and stars Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Hu Jun, Lin Chi-ling and Zhao Wei.

Within Asia, Red Cliff was released in two parts, totaling over four hours in length. The first part was released in July 2008 and the second in January 2009. Outside of Asia, a single 2½ hour film was released in 2009, though the two-part version was later released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK. With an estimated budget of US$80 million, Red Cliff is the most expensive Asian-financed film to date. The first part of the film grossed US$124 million in Asia and broke the box office record previously held by Titanic in mainland China.

Plot

Director John Woo said in an interview with CCTV-6 that the film primarily uses the historical record Records of Three Kingdoms as a blueprint for the Battle of Red Cliffsmarker, rather than the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. As such, traditionally vilified characters such as Cao Cao and Zhou Yu are given a more historically accurate treatment in the film.

Part 1

In the summer of 208 CE during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the imperial army led by Chancellor (or Prime Minister) Cao Cao embarks on a campaign to eliminate the southern warlords Sun Quan and Liu Bei in the name of eliminating rebels, with the reluctant approval of the Emperor. Cao Cao's mighty army swiftly conquers the southern province of Jingzhoumarker and the Battle of Changban is ignited when Cao Cao's cavalry unit starts attacking the civilians who are on an exodus led by Liu Bei. During the battle, Liu Bei's followers, including his sworn brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, give an excellent display of their legendary combat skills by holding off the enemy while buying time for the civilians to retreat. The warrior Zhao Yun fights bravely to rescue his lord Liu Bei's entrapped family but only succeeds in rescuing Liu's infant son.

Following the battle, Liu Bei's chief advisor Zhuge Liang sets forth on a diplomatic mission to Eastern Wu to form an alliance between Liu Bei and Sun Quan to deal with Cao Cao's invasion. Sun Quan was initially in the midst of a dilemma of whether to surrender or resist, but his decision to resist Cao Cao hardens after Zhuge Liang's clever persuasion and a subsequent tiger hunt with his Grand Viceroy Zhou Yu and his sister Sun Shangxiang. Meanwhile, naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun from Jingzhou pledge allegiance to Cao Cao and are received warmly by Cao, who places them in command of his navy.

After the hasty formation of the alliance, the forces of Liu Bei and Sun Quan call for a meeting to formulate a plan to counter Cao Cao's army, which is advancing slowly towards Red Cliffmarker at godspeed from both land and water. The battle begins with Sun Shangxiang leading a light cavalry unit to lure Cao Cao's vanguard army into the Eight Trigrams Formation laid down by the allied forces. Cao Cao's vanguard army is defeated by the allies but Cao Cao shows no disappointment and proceeds to lead his main army to the riverbank directly opposite the allies' main camp where they laid camp. While the allies throw a banquet to celebrate their victory, Zhuge Liang thinks of a plan to send Sun Shangxiang to infiltrate Cao Cao's camp on an espionage mission. The duo maintain contact by sending messages via a pigeon. The film ends with Zhou Yu lighting his miniaturised battleships on a map based on the battle formation, signifying his plans for defeating Cao Cao's navy.

Part 2

Sun Shangxiang has infiltrated Cao Cao's camp and she has been secretly noting details and sending them via a pigeon to Zhuge Liang. Meanwhile, Cao Cao's army is seized with a plague of typhoid fever which kills a number of his troops. Cao Cao orders the corpses to be sent on floating rafts to the allies' camp, hoping to pass the plague on to his enemies. The allied army's morale is affected when some unsuspecting soldiers let the plague in, and eventually a disheartened Liu Bei leaves with his forces while Zhuge Liang stays behind to assist the Eastern Wu forces. Cao Cao hears that the alliance had collapsed and he is overjoyed. At the same time, his naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun propose a new tactic of interlocking the battleships together with iron beams to minimize rocking when sailing on the river and reduce the chances of the troops falling seasick.



Subsequently, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang make plans on how to eliminate Cao Cao's naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, and produce 100,000 arrows respectively. They agreed that whoever fails to complete his mission will be punished by execution under military law. Zhuge Liang's ingenious strategy of borrowing of arrows with straw boats brings in over 100,000 arrows from the enemy and arouses Cao Cao's suspicions about the loyalty of Cai and Zhang towards him. On the other hand, Cao Cao sends Jiang Gan to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender, but Zhou Yu tricks Jiang Gan instead, into believing that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun are planning to assassinate their lord Cao Cao. Both Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu's respective plans complement each other when Cao Cao is convinced, despite earlier having doubts about Jiang Gan's report, that Cai and Zhang were indeed planning to assassinate him by deliberately "donating" arrows to the enemy. Cai and Zhang are executed and Cao Cao realises his folly afterwards but it is too late.

In the Eastern Wu camp, Sun Shangxiang returns from Cao Cao's camp with a map of the enemy formation. Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang decide to attack Cao Cao's navy with fire anticipating that a special climatic condition will soon cause the wind to shift and that the resulting South-East Wind will blow to their advantage. As the Eastern Wu forces make preparations for the fire attack, Huang Gai proposes to Zhou Yu the Self-Torture Ruse to increase their chances of success, but Zhou Yu does not heed it. Before the battle, the forces of Eastern Wu have a final moment together, feasting on glutinous rice balls to celebrate the Winter Festival. Meanwhile, Zhou Yu's wife Xiao Qiao heads towards Cao Cao's camp alone secretly, in hope of persuading Cao Cao to give up his ambitious plans but she fails and decides to distract him instead to buy time for the Eastern Wu forces.

The battle begins when the South-East Wind starts blowing in the middle of the night and the Eastern Wu forces launch their full-scale attack on Cao Cao's navy. On the other hand, Liu Bei's forces, which had apparently left the alliance, start attacking Cao Cao's forts on land. By dawn, Cao Cao's entire navy has been destroyed. The allied forces launch another offensive on Cao Cao's ground army, stationed in his forts, and succeeded in breaking through using testudo formation despite suffering heavy casualties. Although Cao Cao is besieged in his main camp, he manages to hold Zhou Yu hostage after catching him off guard together with Cao Hong. Xiahou Jun appears as well holding Xiao Qiao hostage and causes the allied forces to hesitate. In the nick of time, Zhao Yun manages to reverse the situation by rescuing Xiao Qiao with a surprise attack and put Cao Cao at the mercy of the allied forces instead. Eventually, the allied forces decide to spare Cao Cao's life and tell him never to return before leaving for home. In the final scenes, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang are seen having a final conversation before Zhuge Liang walks away into the far distance with the newborn foal Mengmeng.

Western release

The western combined release trims the length of the movie from 280 minutes to 148 minutes, notable cuts include the entire defection storyline, the background and motivations behind Zhuge Liang's plan to steal 100,000 arrows including the threat to his life, and the early parts of Sun Shangxiang's infiltration. Also trimmed are the lengths of scenes predominantly found in part 1. However, the western combined release also adds new material. For example when a character's earlier introduction was cut then the later scene within which that character first appears in the western release features extended dialogue to introduce them. The 15 minute tiger hunt plot line of the Asian release is cut but the council chamber scene that comes immediately after it features 2 minutes of additional argument between characters providing the same character and plot advancement but in a more compact form. Likewise an opening narration in English is provided to set the historical context whereas in the Asian release a similar yet briefer description of the context of the political situation appears in scrolling form 10 minutes into the film.

Cast



Replaced cast

  • Ken Watanabe was originally selected for the role of Cao Cao. According to a report, some Chinese fans voiced objections over the choice as they felt that it was inappropriate for a Japanese actor to play the role of such an important Chinese historical figure. The report claimed that the protests influenced the decision of director John Woo, who eventually chose Zhang Fengyi for the role.


  • Chow Yun-Fat was originally selected for the role of Zhou Yu, and had even earlier been considered for the role of Liu Bei. However, he pulled out on 13 April, 2007, just as shooting began. Chow explained that he received a revised script a week earlier and was not given sufficient time to prepare, but producer Terence Chang disputed this, saying that he could not work with Chow because the film's Hollywood insurer opposed 73 clauses in Chow's contract. Chow was replaced by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who had previously turned down the role of Zhuge Liang, as he was burned out after filming Lust, Caution; but offered to rejoin the cast because of the urgency of the matter.


Production

Production is helmed by Lion Rock Entertainment and China Film Group Corporation. Distributors were fast to clinch the deal before shooting even began. Distributors include Chengtian Entertainment (Chinamarker), CMC Entertainment/20th Century Fox Taiwan Branch (Taiwanmarker), Avex Group/Universal Studios Japan (Japanmarker), Showbox (South Koreamarker), and the Los Angelesmarker-based Summit Entertainment (international).

Shooting of Red Cliff started in mid-April 2007. Shooting was held at a film studio in Beijing, as well as in Hebeimarker province, where naval warfare was staged at two working reservoirs.

On June 9, 2008, a stuntman doing shots for the movie was killed in a freak fire accident, which also left six others injured.

The theme songs to the two parts are Xin Zhan: Red Cliff and Chi Bi: Da Jiang Dong Qu, both (as well as their Japanese versions) sung by alan.

Reception

First part Asia release

During the 1st part of the film's Asia release, Variety reported that the film has enjoyed a tremendous start to its theatrical run across East Asia since its release date in July 10, 2008. The film scored a record-breaking opening weekend across six Asian territories. Variety also reported that the film has received a generally positive critical reception in Hong Kong, China. In South Korea, the opening day of Cliff knocked Hancock down to 79,000 admissions Thursday, or an estimated gross of $550,000. The film also drew more than 1.6 million viewers in South Korea — about 130,000 more than the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. At a budget of US$80 million, along with the media scrutiny over its lengthy and troubled shoot, including the death of a stunt man and the hospitalization of its producer, the film is viewed by many as a big financial gamble, however, industry insiders reported thus far, good word-of-mouth and positive reviews appear to be paying off for the film's strong box-office revenue.

The Associated Press (AP) gave the film a glowing review, and states: "John Woo displays the crucial distinction in the magnificently told Red Cliff, the Hong Kong director's triumphant return to Chinese film after 16 years in Hollywood" and "with Red Cliff, Woo shows he's still a masterful director to be reckoned with."

The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, states the bottom line is: "A formidable prelude to an epic battle with resplendent effects and action spectacles."

Variety also gave the film a favorable review, and describes Red Cliff: "balances character, grit, spectacle and visceral action in a meaty, dramatically satisfying pie that delivers on the hype and will surprise many who felt Woo progressively lost his mojo during his long years stateside." The review also states that the picture may however disappoint those simply looking for a costume retread of his kinetic 80s action films, such as Heroes Shed No Tears and A Better Tomorrow.

The Korea Times writes: "Finally, Asian cinema sees the birth of a movie with the grandeur ― in both budget and inspiration ― of epic franchises like The Lord of the Rings." "Hefty action sequences are knit together with delightful detail, including poetic animal imagery. While the Asian-ness of movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon caters to a Western audience, Red Cliff captures the heart and soul of the Asian philosophy with a more universal appeal." One of South Korea's main English-language newspapers JoongAng Daily raves about the film by stating "the historical China film lived up to its expectations in more ways than one."

The Japan Times gave the film a high praise and states "Red Cliff brings all that and more to the screen — a whopping two and a half hours of frenzied action, feverish passion and elegantly choreographed battle scenes..." and listed the film at the end of the year as one of the best international (non-Japanese) films of 2008.

The Malaysian national newspaper New Straits Times also gave the film an enthusiastic review, and states: "The first film is breathtaking in its grandeur, with awe-inspiring battle scenes." The review also praised the film's 'impressive' cinematography and noted that "the characters are all well fleshed-out, complete with individual quirks and mannerisms."

The Vietnamese newspaper Thanh Nien Daily remarked: "Red Cliff’s action is epic. Drawing from actual battle tactics from 1,800 years ago, Woo proves that after all these years he still has the ability to make the action fresh and one-of-a-kind by blending grace with violence in a whole new genre. Lovers of Asian cinema can rejoice, John Woo is back."

Second part Asia release

The 2nd half of the film, was released in China in January 7, 2009. The Hollywood Reporter writes: "It is director John Woo's level-headed ordering of narrative sequence, his skill in devising kinetic live-action to off-set technical ostentation and his vision of how to turn epic into entertainment that propels "Red Cliff II" to a thundering climax," and "colossal production turns history into legend by splashing out on spectacle and entertainment."

Variety describes the film as "Delivers in spades...with characters already established, this half is expectedly heavier on action...though still pack beaucoup human interest prior to the final hour's barnstorming battle," and states the film overall as "in this 280-minute, two-part version, helmer-producer Woo and fellow producer Terence Chang have indeed crafted one of the great Chinese costume epics of all time."

The Japan Times gave the second film 4.5 stars out of 5, and describes it as a "visually stunning Chinese historical epic ratchets the entertainment factor up to eleven."

Western release

Western critics also reacted positively to the film when the two parts were released as one film (150 minute version) in June 2009. The film received 87% rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the general consensus being that the film had "impressively grand battlefield action" with the majority of critics agreeing that director John Woo "returns to form" with Red Cliff.

Release

Major Markets (Gross Revenue > US$1 million)
Country Release Date(s) Distributor Official Website Gross Revenue (in US$)
Mainland China 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.07 (Part II) China Film Group Corporation http://chibi.yule.sohu.com $46,698,967 (Part I)$38,043,199 (Part II)
Singapore 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.09 (Part II) MediaCorp Raintree Pictures& Scorpio East & Golden Village $1,914,725 (Part I)$2,091,413 (Part II)
Taiwan 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.15 (Part II) 20th Century Fox Taiwan Branch(Part of CMC Entertainment) http://th.foxmovies.com.tw/redcliff $5,522,646 (Part I)$4,512,737 (Part II)
Hong Kong 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.15 (Part II) Mei Ah Entertainment& Edko Films http://redcliff.meiah.com $3,109,405 (Part I)$3,058,382 (Part II)
South Korea 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.22 (Part II) Showbox http://blog.naver.com/redcliff2008 $9,950,130 (Part I)$12,931,947 (Part II)
Thailand 2008.07.10 (Part I)2009.01.22 (Part II) Sahamongkol Film International http://redcliffmovie-th.com/ $944,735 (Part I)$1,177,713 (Part II)
Malaysia 2008.07.17 (Part I)2009.01.23 (Part II) Golden Screen Cinemas $645,025 (Part I)$920,257 (Part II)
Japan 2008.11.01 (Part I)2009.04.10 (Part II) Avex Group http://redcliff.jp $52,418,016 (Part I)$56,374,881(Part II)
France 2009.03.25 Metropolitan Filmexport http://les3royaumes.fr $3,963,155
Italy 2009.10.23 Eagle Pictures http://www.mymovies.it/labattagliadeitreregni/ $1,779,512
United States 2009.10.22 (VOD, Amazon & Xbox Live)2009.11.20 (Theatrical Release) Magnolia Pictures http://redclifffilm.com
The film is also released in the following countries:Indonesia, Vietnam (Part I - July 2008 & Part II - January 2009); Latvia (January 2009); Denmark (February 2009); Estonia, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland (March 2009); Greece, Norway (April 2009); Lithuania (May 2009); United Kingdom, Czech Republic (June 2009); Poland, Turkey, Australia, Finland, Lebanon (July 2009); Netherlands, Sweden, India, Russia, United Arab Emirates (August 2009); Portugal, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Croatia (September 2009); New Zealand, Israel, Egypt, Philippines (October 2009).

Awards and nominations

First installment

Awards
Award Category Name Outcome
3rd Asian Film Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Director John Woo Nominated
Best Visual Effects Craig Hayes Won
28th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Director John Woo Nominated
Best Actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Zhang Fengyi Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Zhao Wei Nominated
Best New Actor Lin Chi-ling Nominated
Best Cinematography Lü Yue, Zhang Li Nominated
Best Film Editing Angie Lam, Robert A. Ferreti, Yang Hongyu Nominated
Best Art Direction Timmy Yip Won
Best Costume and Make-up Design Timmy Yip Won
Best Action Choreography Corey Yuen Nominated
Best Sound Design Wu Jiang, Roger Savage Won
Best Visual Effects Craig Hayes Won
Best Original Score Tarō Iwashiro Won
Best Original Song "Xin·Zhan ~RED CLIFF~" Nominated


See also



References

  1. "Red Cliff (R2/UK BD) in October", DVD Times, 2007-02-17. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
  2. Dawtrey, A., Guider, E. "Berlin star power eclipses click pics", Variety, 2009-09-30. Retrieved on 2009-11-06.
  3. "2008 Overseas Total Yearly Box Office", Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2009-03-02
  4. [1], 2008-11-04. Retrieved on 2009-03-02.
  5. Zhang, X. "John Woo to reinterpret Cao Cao and Zhou Yu", Jingbao, 2007-02-08. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  6. Unknown. "Zhao Wei to Join All-star Cast for "Battle of the Red Cliff"", China Radio International, 2007-02-09. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  7. Tang, A. "Choice of Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang criticized", Chinese Business View, 2007-03-09. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  8. Lee, M. "Chow Yun-Fat Drops out of 'Red Cliff'", Associated Press, 2007-04-17. Retrieved on 2007-04-17.
  9. Frater, P. & Coonan, C. "Leung rejoins 'Red Cliff'", Variety, 2007-04-19. Retrieved on 2007-04-20.
  10. McCurry, J. "Chinese epic loses the plot as actors quit £40m project", The Guardian, 2007-04-20. Retrieved on 2007-04-20.
  11. Unknown. "Tony Leung leaps off Red Cliff", The Guardian, 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2007-04-04.
  12. Frater, P. "Woo wages 'Battle'", Variety, 2006-12-11. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
  13. Elley, Derek "Red Cliff", Variety. Retrieved on 2009-03-02
  14. Zhang, Z. "Red Cliff to begin shooting mid-April", Xinmin Evening News, 2007-04-04. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  15. Zheng, Z. "Shooting locations of Red Cliff revealed", Sina Entertainment, 2007-04-04. Retrieved on 2007-04-04.
  16. "Stuntman killed on John Woo film set"
  17. John Woo takes Chinese epic to Western audiences. AP
  18. War as wisdom and gore. The Japan Times
  19. The top movies of 2008. The Japan Times
  20. Red Cliff. Rottentomatoes.
  21. [2]


External links

  • Official U.S. Site | http://www.redclifffilm.com/



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