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

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 2-Aug-2010

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 274:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:33)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Woo
Icon Entertainment Starring Tony Leung
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Fengyi Zhang
Chen Chang
Wei Zhao
Jun Hu
Case ?
RPI ? Music Taro Iwashiro

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
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

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The old Hollywood saying 'Bigger than Ben Hur' will now have to be updated to 'Bigger than Red Cliff'!

    This is a massive movie by any measure with a run time of over 5 hours, more than 100,000 extras, and a story involving land battles, naval battles, the end of a dynasty, love, treachery, alliances and a body count to beat any horror film. It is also a very high quality production with excellent cinematography, wonderful fight choreography, a rousing and beautiful score and some excellent acting by a great cast of Asian actors including two of my favourites Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro. I was also impressed by an actor I was not aware of previously, Fengyi Zhang, who plays the devious Prime Minister Cao Cao. The film was directed by the great Chinese director, John Woo.

    This film is being released in four different versions, with two on DVD and two on Blu-ray. The two different versions available on each format are the version I am reviewing here, the Asian or Director's Cut version which is split into two parts and the international theatrical version which is 'only' two and a half hour hours. You can find reviews of the two Blu-ray releases here and here. I will also review the theatrical version on DVD shortly.

   The story is a famous part of China's history and this story and other related ones have been filmed before both for TV and the cinema. The story presented here is based on the history combined with a famous novel from China's literary history, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The film starts in 208AD with Prime Minister Cao Cao convincing the emperor that he needs to defeat two southern rebels who are threatening the dynasty. They are Liu Bei and Sun Quan, two regional lords from Southern China. The film indicates that the real reason Cao Cao initiated the war was that he wanted the wife of Sun Quan's Viceroy, Zhou Yu (Tony Leung) for himself and that the lords are not actually rebels. Liu Bei is initially badly defeated in battle by Cao Cao partially due to his desire to protect civilians. He is advised by a talented military strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who becomes his negotiating agent with Sun Quan. Liu Bei wants to form an alliance with Sun Quan against Cao Cao. Once the alliance is forged the story follows the ups and downs of both sides culminating in the final Battle of Red Cliff. The various skirmishes and battles are played out on land and also on the Yangtze River.

    This version is as it was shown theatrically in Asia (with the exception of some minor cuts for UK censors) and it features much more of the background intrigues and relationships than the international theatrical version. I was certainly very pleased to have spent the five hours watching this film as it didn't drag at all and it always seemed to be moving forward either with action or interesting politics and back play. There are many subplots involving relationships between characters and character defining moments even for lesser characters such as Sun Quan's sister. There is also some wonderful imagery involving floating lanterns, banners, wind, pigeons and much more. This is a great film visually as well as from an auditory perspective through the wonderful score and other great sound effects. It is obviously mostly a war film and there is much violence and many gruesome deaths. Despite this, it can also be enjoyed by other audiences for its many other qualities.

    I would highly recommend this film for lovers of Asian historical epics and epic war films more generally.


Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is excellent about as good as SD gets which is somewhat surprising given the extended runtimes of both parts.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced widescreen.

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout with amazing details in people's faces. Shadow detail was also excellent with clear detail in the night action scenes.

    The colour was magnificent with the rich costumes, claret red blood and colourful battlefield banners.

    Artefacts included some very occasional, very minor MPEG artefacts such as at 68:40 on Disc 2. These were nearly non-existent on Disc 1 and only slightly more prevalent on Disc 2. To keep this in context these artefacts are much less prevalent here than most DVDs I have watched or reviewed recently.

    The only issue of any note I had with this transfer is that the subtitles are burned in and quite small. Some lines flash by too quickly and others are blurry especially during camera pans. This obviously would not be an issue with a subtitle stream.

    The layer change on Disc 1 is at 70:33 and caused a mild pause. On Disc 2 the pause is more significant and badly placed at 94:12.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is excellent.

    This DVD contains two audio options, a Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224Kb/s.

    Dialogue seemed clear and easy to understand throughout although my understanding of Mandarin is limited. There were no audio sync issues which I noticed.

    The music consists of a magnificent score by Taro Iwashiro which is by turns delicate and lyrical and then rousing and exciting during action sequences.

    The surround speakers are used constantly during actions scenes with the sounds of arrows flying all around during action scenes. Music and atmosphere is also relayed through the surround speakers.

    The subwoofer is very active for drums, explosions, marching and the wonderful music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     All the extras are contained on a second disc.


    The menu includes an introduction, music and minor animation. It is the same (except for a Bonus Materials selection on Disc 2) on both discs. Scene selection is available.

Trailer (1:47)

    A non 16x9 enhanced theatrical trailer.

John Woo Interview (16:00) 

    The volume is quite low on this extra so prepare to turn the volume up. Woo talks quickly and excitedly about this film and his pride at making it, which is understandable. He also discusses the Chinese Film industry and why he returned to China to make this film. Decent but not spectacular.

Behind the Scenes (20:52) 

    In Mandarin with subs and some English voiceover. This consists of lots of little bits of on-set footage which chops and changes all the time with lots of black screens in between. Some interesting stuff but it is rather annoying.




    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.

    The Region 1 version is not due for release until Mar 30, 2010 so details are scant at this point. There is also a Region 3 Korean release available but this seems to be similar as well. Our local release seems to be the same as the UK version, so currently in terms of DVD releases there seems to be nothing better than our local one especially for English speaking audiences.


    A stunning and awe-inspiring Historical epic set in 208AD in China.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    A small selection of decent extras is available.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Hey Bruce -- a question about the subs - cztery REPLY POSTED
Thanks for the subs info - cztery