Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, has one driving ambition: to unify China's seven kingdoms into one empire. As this goal turns into a bloody quest, the emperor's lover begins to question her loyalty to him. — Genre: Foreign Fil... more »m - Chinese
"Watching the Emperor and the Assassin is like watching history come alive. Before going into anything else about this picture, just the site of the costumes and watching the Emperors soldiers, living breathing moving terra cotta warriors is simply awesome. The history of ancient China leaps at you in this film. The pictures of Xian's Terra Cotta Warriors are famous, but to see them alive in this film is just unbelievable.Kaige Chen is one of the world's greatest directors. His previous film, Temptress Moon, was an interesting look at the decadence of the warlord and KMT period in Chinese history, but its his epic Farewell My Concubine that made him famous. If you are not familiar with Farewell My Concubine, its the history of China from the Fall of the Dynasty system through the end of the Cultural Revolution as seen through the eyes of two Peking Opera stars. If you like Chinese history, you must see Farewell My Concubine.The Emperor and the Assassin is a fantastic look at how the first Emperor of China came to power and unified the various parts of China under one ruler and Dynastic system.Also, if anyone is not familiar with the awesome Chinese actress Gong-li, this film is a great introduction.Often Chinese cinema and Hong Kong action cinema get lumped together. This is unfortunate because they are worlds apart. The films of Yimou, Kaige Chen, and Gong-li are very different from those of Jackie Chan. Both are great, but very different.Watch this awesome historical epic and then I recommend Farewell My Concubine, Raise the Red Latern, Red Sorghum, and the most powerful of all Chinese films of late: To Live"
An historical Chinese story of epic proportions
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 11/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the actual event , this epic is set in the year 221 B.C and tells the story of the unification of China. Action packed and filled with intrigue, passion, betrayals and unforgettable battle sequences, it held my attention throughout in spite of its 160 minute length.The king, Ying Zeng, played by Li Xuejian. is obsessed with unifying the seven kingdoms of China and becoming its first Emperor. His lover, Lady Zhao, played by the beautiful actress Gong Li, devises a scheme whereby she will travel to the neighboring kingdom of Yan to set a fake assassination plot in motion which will give the king an excuse to invade Yan. However, she falls in love with the assassin as the king becomes more and more ruthless.There are subplots, and tragedy and constant high drama. There are scenes of great beauty and of abject cruelty. There is great cinematography and brilliant use of physical space.The deep characterization made me think of Shakespeare. And tragic events that call to mind Greek drama. And yet it is totally Chinese as it deals with age-old questions of whether the ends justify the means. And raises questions dealing with life and death and good and evil and all the blurred edges in between."
Brings back memories of Kurosawa and Lean
reel07 | Sad Hill Cemetery | 04/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Emperor and the Assassin is a sweeping epic from the director of "Farewell My Concubine" and "Temptress Moon." This film is undeniably one of the best 5 of the year and is strongly reminiscent of a Kurosawa or Lean film, whether in terms of lush photography or deep character studies. Though not ranking at the films of those directors, this film stands on its own as one of the best epics I've seen in a long time. The story follows a ruthless, cold-blooded emperor who will do anything to reach up to the highest level of rulership, a reformed and moral assassin, and the emperor's wife, who bring those two forces together. Though running at a length of 161 minutes, this film cruises by very fast, with realistic battle scenes, almost exactly like Ran and long, sprawling, unforgettable shots like Lawrence of Arabia. There are extremely good performances all around, and a complexed, but fully revealing storyline, which makes this a fascinating, highly ambitous masterpiece."
D. Chang | DC | 06/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Emperor and the Assassin" is drama at its finest. Set against the backdrop of ancient China during the end of the Seven Kingdoms, it is not so much the story of how they were unified as it is about the trials and relationships of the Qin king. Extremely long, clocking in at just over 2 hours and 40 minutes, the impatient will shift their seating more than a few times, but the experience is entirely worth it. The crew entirely rebuilt the Qin palace, along with several other cities, from scratch. The sets and costumes are gorgeous. It really does appear to be ancient China. But this is not a film that only Asians will understand, it has a universal message and story that anyone could grasp. The acting is well on par with the best of the western world, and the story is absolutely heartbreaking. This is not a Hollywood movie by any stretch. This film actually takes time to develop every character intricately, and the portrayals of them really make you feel what they are feeling. There is no happy ending, but you will not feel cheated when the credits roll.
As with any foreign film, especially Asian films, the dialogue will be best understood by those who can understand Chinese, but for the most part the subtitles are very good. English speakers(or readers, in this case) will not miss much in the words spoken, but the true emotion can really only be felt by speakers of the language. Chinese is simple in syntax, but extremely complex in its subtleties that just cannot be translated into subtitles. But I am happy they chose not to dub it as that would likely destroy the brilliant performances of the very accomplished actors involved.
Anyway, in any language this is one of the greatest films EVER made, and if you like quality movies at all this film could not possibly disappoint."
T. E. T. A.
Dryfus Petty | San Dimas, Ca United States | 07/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What a beautiful film. Filmed so crystal clear that is is reminiscent of the cinematography of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. At the end of a film like this, your heart aches and you find that you cannot easily shake the memory of it away. Li Xue Jian is magnificent. With his charisma, he is the personification of the intrinsic man. While he is a king, we see that he is also human. A man fraught with fear, with love, with hatred, with loneliness, and while intoxicated with power, he understands that he is powerless. A wonderful performance, which shows the complexities of character and the multi-faceted id.
As for Gong Li,who plays the Lady Zhou, what can you say? Just that her smile alone makes my heart ache as I realize I can never again be content with a woman any less than she."