Red Cliff (Chi bi): Part I & Part II: Special Edition (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 2-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Interviews-Cast & Crew-Director John Woo
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 286:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Woo
Studio
Distributor
China Film Group
Icon Entertainment
Starring Tony Leung
Takeshi Kitano
Zhang Fengyi
Chang Chen
Zhao Wei
Hu Jun
Chiling Lin
Shidou Nakamura
You Yong
Ba Sen Zha Bu
Zang Jinsheng
Hou Yong
Case ?
RPI $59.95 Music Taro Iwashiro


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Before heading off to Hollywood, director John Woo made some of the best Hong Kong action films ever. The Killer (1989), A Better Tomorrow I & II (1987 / 1988) or Hard Boiled (1992), for example, are wonderful cinema; action packed, exciting, innovative with themes of honour, loyalty, brotherhood and pigeons. With Red Cliff John Woo returned to his Chinese roots with a film of massive proportions. The Blu-ray of the Australian theatrical release (147:38 minutes) has already been reviewed here. In Asian cinemas Red Cliff was released in two parts, followed by two region free Blu-rays. Red Cliff: Special Edition is a two disc set that contains the two parts, one on each disc. Each part is the full Asian version, including the Chinese / English title and end title sequences. Part II also starts, during the title sequence, with a summary of the events of Part I. In the Asian version the distributor's logo appeared on the screen for part of a second at various times. This is not present in these discs. In the shorter International theatrical version when the major characters first appeared their names and positions where displayed; this does not happen in this version, so it takes longer for a non-Chinese audience to work out who is who.

     In 208 AD, in the last days of the Han Dynasty, Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang feng-yi) bullies the weak Emperor into ordering an attack against the two southern "rebel" kingdoms of Liu Bei (You Yong) and Sun Quan (Chang Chen). When the massive force led by Cao Cao captures Liu Bei's capital, he sends strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to seek an alliance with Sun Quan. There he meets Viceroy Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) and they form a mutual friendship and cement an alliance that meets with early success in battle against Cao Cao's cavalry. As a result, Cao Cao changes his strategy and builds a massive camp on the Yangtze River opposite the outnumbered allied forces at Red Cliff. There, before the final decisive battle begins, alliances, friendships and loyalties will be tested, Zhuge must come up with some strategies to even the odds and Zhou's beautiful wife Xiao Qiao (Chiling Lin) must decide on a sacrifice that may change the course of Chinese history.

     In this complete version of Red Cliff: Special Edition there are longer battle sequences, extra characters and additional events. There is especially more background detail about Sun Quan including a tiger hunting sequence, a much greater role for his tomboy sister Sun Shang Xiang (Zhao Wei) including a marriage proposal and her spy exploits in Cao Cao's camp, more insight into the political manoeuvrings of minister Lu Su (Hou Yong) and his relationship with Zhuge, plus a much more ambiguous and competitive relationship between Zhao and Zhuge. The partnership between Zhao and his wife Xiao Qiao is also developed further and this version also allows nuances of strategy to be explored, such as the role of the naval forces and the cunning way Cao Cao's admirals are eliminated. We also learn more of the motivation of Cao Cao, so that his delay in starting the final battle makes more sense.

     The heroes and legends of the period of the Three Kingdoms are well known in China through oral tradition and Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms (just as Homer's Iliad and the heroes and legends of the Trojan War are known in the west) and this version of Red Cliff: Special Edition takes the time to explore incidents and characters. Much more is made of, for example, General Zhao (Hu Jun) such as his acclaimed rescue of Liu Bei's infant son, General Guan Yu (Ba Sen Zha Bu), the uncompromising General Gan Xing (Shidou Nakamura) and the bear like warrior Zhang Fei (Zang Jinsheng). But in an epic battle film, it is the spectacle and action that is the key and here John Woo delivers. There is nothing small about Red Cliff: Special Edition. There is a huge cast of characters and fighters, vast sets, extensive use of CGI, a rousing score by Taro Iwashiro and, of course, battle sequences on a massive scale including the climactic final battle opposite Red Cliff that is a breathtaking spectacle. Throw in characteristic John Woo slow motion action, sweeping camera pans (with an uninterrupted pan up and across Cao Cao's armada on the Yangtze River (62:22 - 43) or another across both fleets 135:02 - 136:08)) and breathtaking is not a false description.

     Red Cliff: Special Edition at 286 minutes is very long but fortunately the two separate parts (Part 1 is 145:08, Part 2 141.08) allow a more comfortable viewing experience. But make no mistake: this is an exhilarating action film, with all the old John Woo trademarks; intense slow motion action, sweeping story telling, loyalty, friendship and brotherhood. And pigeons! It is, simply, magnificent cinema; think Zulu plus Lord of the Rings. If you are interested in John Woo, or old fashioned historical epic films, get hold Red Cliff: Special Edition and see the film as the director intended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Red Cliff: Special Edition is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which is the original theatrical ratio and it is 16x9 enhanced. The print is just stunning: the flapping banners, the armour, the weapons, the shipping and locations are vibrant in their intensity, full of depth, colour and clarity (which makes some of the CGI shots look a bit ordinary). Skin tones are natural, blacks solid and shadow detail wonderful. When the fires take hold they leap from the screen. I did not see any artefacts.

English subtitles are automatically enabled. They cannot be turned off so Mandarin speakers are stuck with them. The English subtitles are in a clear white font that is smaller than usual which sometimes makes the words difficult to read, especially against light backgrounds when they occasionally flash by too quickly. The Asian versions do have a larger white font which is easier to read. The subtitle spelling is American English: otherwise the only grammatical error was a continued use of "cavalries" rather than "cavalry".

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio for Red Cliff Special Edition is a Mandarin DTS HD MA 5.1 track that rocks! There are constant directional cues in the surrounds as arrows fly, horses gallop past or weapons clash. At other times the surrounds are fully utilised for background noise, including the fire storm, and music. The subwoofer supports the explosions, fire effects, horse hooves, weather events and anything else going. Dialogue is clear but lip synchronisation is occasionally off, but not too distracting.

The rousing orchestral and percussion score by Taro Iwashiro is heard clearly and fully supports the viewing experience.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The extra features are identical to those on the Blu-ray of the International shorter version of the film. They are on the second disc.

    

John Woo Interview, 16:01 minutes.

Director John Woo speaks in English about Red Cliff; how he had wanted to make the film for 20 years, the influence of epic films such Ben Hur and Lawrence of Arabia, filming in China again, stunt horses, his themes of loyalty, friendship and love plus his trademark pigeons! Worth a look.

Behind the Scenes, 20:53 minutes.

This is raw on set footage with a linking narration (Chinese with subtitles). It is disjointed, with frequent cuts to black, but includes some interesting film from the set.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There has not been a Blu-ray release of Red Cliff: Special Edition in the USA. In Asia Red Cliff is released in two parts; both have a range of True HD 7.1 audios, trailers, various interviews and a photo gallery. However, while the film has English subtitles, the extra features do not. There is also a special edition Blu-ray available in the UK with an advertised running time of 293 minutes which is likely to be the same as this "Special Edition." Call it a draw.

Summary

    Before heading off to Hollywood, director John Woo made some of the best Hong Kong action films ever. With Red Cliff, John Woo returns to his Chinese roots with a film of massive proportions and all the old John Woo trademarks; intense slow motion action, sweeping story telling, loyalty, friendship, brotherhood and pigeons! The video and audio are first class, the extras limited. This is the beauty of DVD & Blu-ray; we can see for ourselves a massive film like Red Cliff in the way the director intended and the way it was seen in Asia. Because of the huge difference in running time the two versions are different films with a different feel but both, on their own merits, are wonderful cinema. If you are interested in the films of John Woo, or old fashioned historical epics, get hold of both versions of Red Cliff. You will not be disappointed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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