John | San Antonio, Texas United States | 12/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ok, first of all...this was a historical film. There was, for all intents and purposes,no "script". Typically when hollywood makes an historical film it has to add a story behind the actual events so that the audience has something more to follow than just the "history lesson". Kind of like they did with Titanic. Big boat hits iceberg, begins sinking and lots of people die. Of course that would get pretty boring without a fictitous love story behind it. However, with Suriyothai, this is not the case. The film was commisioned by the queen of Thailand so that the people of Thailand could have an accurate depiction of an historical event and I for one feel they did just that. All the backstabbing, treachery, heartbreak AND violence, usually fabricated to give an historical movie substance, actually happened in the kingdom once known as Siam. The director and his team did tons of research that accurately reflects the true events that occured at the time. Of course, it is not for everyone and I'm sure most people unaware of the legend of Suriyothai, or simply not interested in the Thai culture, will pass this movie by and grab The Terminator 3 so they can be "entertained". This movie was made for one real reason; to give Thai people an historical picture of an event most, if not all, were unaware of. This is a kind of "North and South" for Thailand and Thai people. However, if you simply watch the movie and take in the "story" that's involved I think you will be pleasantly surprised, and you will learn something in the process as well. About 98% of this film is true. Little things like how someone was ACTUALLY executed or how someone rode an elephant into battle may be off a little, but for the most part this is an actual depiction of Thai history. I rented this movie because I am Thai, and felt intrigued to see what a "big-budget" Thai movie would be like. I enjoyed this movie for many reasons. The imagery, soundtrack and visuals are great. The story it tells is fascinating, made even more fascinating because it's true. The acting at times seems stretched and the direction during dialogue scenes may seem a little off to most westerners used to Hollywood movies. You more than likely would not see this movie unless you are Thai, related to someone Thai or interested in anything Thai. And that's too bad because it has a lot to offer for a movie that's just an "Historical Account"."
Curtis Allan | Seattle, WA | 02/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no question this movie has flaws, but quite frankly I would prefer watching such flaws much more than suffering thru the miserable slop which is 98% of Hollywood films today...This is a fascinating look at another part of the globe which most of us have not experienced beyond eating Phad Thai at the local corner chifa. The colors, the costumes, the bloodthirsty ambition, and the elephants! What amazing images are these. I was particulary enthralled with the scenes of elephant warfare and the one with the elegent river canoes thrusting into battle. And the one-eyed warrior was over the top! Even Hollywood should recognize that guy's talent. How tough was he?For me, the only reason to not buy this right away is the hope that the longer Thai theatrical version (+45 minutes) might be even better. But I doubt its coming out any time soon, and often editing is done for a good reason (see Das Boot or Blade Runner). If you liked Lawrence of Arabia, Gandhi, Braveheart, or Elizabeth, I think you will enjoy this film. So my advice is to buy this fascinating film right now!"
Sumptuous, lavish and impressive
K. J. Hess | Columbus, OH | 08/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We loved this film. Foremost, it was beautifully filmed, with lavish costumes, sets & scenery. The music is beautiful; I'm disappointed that it's not available; I'm a fan of movie scores. I thoroughly enjoyed the story line also. Not being familiar with the history of Siam/Thailand/Burma, I can't vouch for its historical accuracy. Whether correct or not, it's a fascinating story. My only criticism is that we became slightly confused by the interwoven relationships of the characters. I'd have liked a guide or "family tree" to follow so I could keep up with the many hierarchies. It was sometimes hard to keep up with who was doing what to whom & why & if they were related familiarly or only politically. Although much of this was unfamiliar material, I highly recommend it if you enjoy subtitled films. We were never bored."
An Epic Asian Film That Doesn't Depend On Choreography!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI is as fine a study in Thai history as is available. Obviously a Big Budget film (apparently financed by Thai Royalty) this is a no holds barred look at the legend of a woman (Suriyothai) in Siamese history circa 1540s who selflessly saved her country from annihilation both from civil unrest and from Burmese invasion.
For those of us for whom this film is the first exposure to the ancient history of Siam/Thailand the going can be a bit rough in following the multitude of characters, the various kings and queens and consorts of the provinces within Siam, and the rules of lineage in the royal families. But once into the film these constrictions relax and the development of the story is fascinating to watch.
The costumes and scenery are as beautiful as any in comparative Asian films and the photography encourages the viewer to jump into the middle of the many gory battles and absorb the feeling of terror that is a running constant in this legend. Thankfully for a change the emphasis is not on highly choreographed fight sequences that crowd the screens today. The acting is difficult to access: this lengthy two and a half hour version of the original four hour film treats some characters a bit abruptly, not allowing us to see how character evolvement worked in the original. But the leads are beautiful and sensitive actors and given the scope of the film, each seems to handle the story well.
There is an odd superimposition of Western music (of the tacky Muzak, elevator sort) on this otherwise authentic appearing film. I suppose that is due in part to the fact that Francis Ford Coppola is the producer and felt that the music would enhance Western viewing. This would be a mute point if it were not for the fact that one of the most sensitive moments in this movie is when a young man is asked to sing for the king: the song is true Siamese not only in language but in notes and style and it is hauntingly beautiful!
Due to the film's length and its indulgent use of battle bloody sequences this may not be a movie for everyone, but for those who find the history of the Orient sadly lacking in our teaching, then THE LEGEND OF SURIYOTHAI is a marvelous starting point. Grady Harp, March 2005"
Wow, need I say more?
Ping Lim | Christchurch | 11/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie justifies to the world that Asian countries can make movies as good as or even better than Hollywood. It's quite a rarity to have a movie made by a Prince, financed or endorsed by a Queen and the main character is acted by a royalty! You would get to see all of that in the behind the scene segment that comes as extras in the DVD package. Just like any other countries that were growing up, there were wild ambitions by various factions to reign the kingdom at any cost; the betrayal, the scheming, the plotting to hedge the bet or to better the chance; and to counter that, there were showing of honour, loyalty, bravery in times of need to do what the country is expected of you. Suriyothai, in this instance, is portrayed as such. She forsaked her true love for her distant cousin to marry a Prince just to keep the fragile peace among warring factions (which were related as well too). With the death of the King, Suriyothai's brother-in-law decided to reign the nation even though he swore upon his father's death bed that he would support his nephew (who was only a mere toddler). To do so, that involved a lot of killing naturally. Suriyothai explained to her disgruntled husband that at times, the coup was necessary for the betterment of a nation (wise instead of conniving like Lady Macbeth). As karma would have it, the brother-in-law would suffer a painful death as his own wife had an hidden agenda (to have her lover be coronated as a King & to have her long forgotten U Thong Dynasty be glorious once more). Suriyothai's husband was projected as a peaceful ruler. Rather than getting involved with all the bickering that was happening, he retreated to the temple instead (to his detriment as he would later found out as the Queen spread the rumour that Suriyothai's husband plotted for his own brother's downfall so he could be King himself). Naturally, Suriyothai would summon for his distant cousin that she was in love with years ago to come to the rescue (Lord Piren). Once all the introduction was gotten over and done with, the movie went up a notch to undo the plotters. The Director explained that originally, CGI was meant to be done by the Industrial Light Magic but he found out that it was cheaper to be done in real time. Thus, a fortunate accident that the fighting scenes were akin to Cecil de Mille's grand epic fighting. Just to complicate the matter, Burma decided to get itself tangled in the civil war. Here, we gotten to see the Spanish and the Portuguese that introduced modern weaponary and mercenaries to the warring factions and did I mention chicken pox as well? To cut the story short, Suriyothai's death in the battlefield vented the anger of their fellow countrymen and women who would continue her fight for the freedom of her nation. A very touching and well-deserving finale. I haven't seen the extended version before but suffice to say that Francis Ford Coppola would have edited the unneeded scenes or as the Director said himself, Director indulging scenes to make the movie flows more smoothly or more rhythmically. The deleted scenes were shown but not explained. It's quite wonderful to note that the person who played Suriyothai's nemesis was akin to Madonna (pop singer) in Thailand, or shall I say, a sex symbol there. In other words, she's perfectly casted as the conniving Queen who would use her sexuality to get her ways. Suriyothai was mentioned quite a bit in the beginning and again in the end, but towards the middle, the movie focused more about the turbulent time that Thailand immersed itself in. A sumptuous set, royal protocol which was followed quite strictly & possibly accurately as it's done by a Prince Director, fighting scenes with elephants which were never going to be outdone by, political backstabbing and intrigue that could match Elizabeth, a bit of love interest, this movie has got it all. Overall, a very commendable effort especially when you think that this is an Asian but not Hollywood movie. Highly recommended."