Shadow 2019: A Excellent Wuxia Epic From Chinese Director Zhang Yimou

Chinese Director Zhang Yimou returns to epic mode with a dark, dour story of kings and doppelgängers.

With Shadow (Vo Anh), director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

Zhang Yimou’s “Shadow” has barely begun before two things become immediately apparent: this is an extravagant and exquisite visual tour de force with a plot that will take some time to sort out.

An unlikely combination of wuxia-style pulp fiction and rarefied cinematic technique with some bloody Grand Guignol moments thrown in. “Shadow” is definitely a film that goes its own way. Which is what you’d expect from director and co-writer Zhang.

A stalwart of China’s celebrated Fifth Generation of filmmakers. Zhang has done martial arts before (“House of Flying Daggers”), as well as personal stories (“Raise the Red Lantern”), political dramas (“Coming Home”), even misguided U.S./China co-productions like the Matt Damon-starring “The Great Wall.”

He’s on firmer ground with the nihilistic “Shadow,” set during the legendary Three Kingdoms period of the 3rd century where warriors were mighty, weapons were deadly. But wounds — no matter how grievous they looked — were not necessarily fatal.

Speaking of looks, as shot by Zhang Xiaoding, “Shadow” is as gorgeous as it is stylized. And it couldn’t be more stylized.

Beautifully filmed and inventively choreographed. Shadow is a thrilling and visually sumptuous wuxia epic (phim vo thuat hay) that finds director Zhang Yimou near peak form.

Movie Info

Rating: NR
Genre: Action & Adventure, Art House & International, Drama
Directed By: Zhang Yimou
Written By: Wei Li, Zhang Yimou
In Theaters: May 3, 2019 Limited
Cast:Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan, Wang Jingchun, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, Leo Wu.
Runtime: 115 minutes
Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment

What are the Critics saying about ‘Shadow’ 2019?

Randy Myers (San Jose Mercury News)

You’ve gotta see it to believe it.

Barry Hertz (Globe and Mail)

If The Great Wall felt like Yimou was turning his greatest hits into something dispassionately bland, then Shadow takes the familiar and makes it feel startlingly new.

Tom Keogh (Seattle Times)

It’s always good to see this side of Zhang’s work. “Shadow” will not soon be forgotten.

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

Shadow isn’t quite as perfect as one might wish.

Ard Vijn (ScreenAnarchy)

At times, Shadow is a feast of sound and vision.

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