Our Land
Review by Ross Anthony

A visual tone poem. The first half of the movie is overly simple in plot, completely devoid of character development, but rich in cinematography, mood, and a sort of generalized emotion. It's extremely artistic. Watching this film is like going to a museum of art. In some ways, it's not something to get excited about. In fact, many would rather sleep. But in other ways, certain expressions, certain brush strokes, the colliding of colors, the strength and emotion fixed in shape -- these can be extremely striking, moving, and simply aesthetically enriching.

The actual bouts are filmed more in the surreal with swordsmen (and women) taking flight by means of hidden wire. Sometimes this is done with exceptional elegance, and at other times, it misses. Even though you can't see the wires, there are those times when you can feel them tug and pull at these fighter/dancers.

I especially enjoyed the emotional intention behind the fighters. In one of the first fight scenes, Jet Li challenges one of the greatest assassins in the land. The assassin is so confident, he doesn't even unsheathe his sword against most of his rivals. But after a short spar with Jet, he realizes the strength of his enemy and not only unsheathes his weapon, but sports a sense of subtle fear that the director artfully resonates throughout the rest of the spar.

Unfortunately, between the artistic choreography, and intellectual chess, there's a lot of soap opera. If you like soap opera, you'll enjoy. I don't particularly enjoy soap opera. I certainly would have used some broader strokes with the editing sword with regard to those stories.

Eventually, the film graduates from the simple to the clever, which both intrigues and at the same time subtracts from the general uncomplicated beauty of the film. And once cleverness is introduced, the lack of character development becomes heavily more obvious and I realize that I don't really care about any of these people because the filmmakers never endeared me to them. They are chess pieces in his painting. The motivations of the characters are only spoken, never shown, and spoken in two or three sentences per character (if that). That may have worked, if the production were to have remained a sort of esoteric a/v poem, but once an actual plot envelops, the picture struggles to touch hearts. Further, "Our Land" is an important concept to the film, but the film itself spends very little time showing the breadth of the land, and almost no time showing ordinary people for which our main characters seemingly care.

Dare I suggest ways to improve? If I were the editor, I'd cut out the soap opera to a bare minimum, reduce the twists to one clever moment, and include visual flashbacks for each of our main characters, including the emperor. There's no need to include any verbal explanation, do it all with music and visuals. Lastly, include a motif of average citizens living average lives.

But, that's just me, and I'm not even Chinese.

Despite it's shortcomings, this film makes an impact. At its heart is a spiritual message about unity, the futility of revenge and war that is set resonating (albeit imperfectly) in its viewers. For that resonance, I'll rate this inconsistently entertaining film just a small notch above average.

(In Mandarin with English Subtitles)

  • Hero. Copyright © 2004. 120 minutes.
  • Starring Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Daoming, Donnie Yen.
  • Directed by Zhang Yimou.
  • Screenplay by Zhang Yimou, Li Feng, Wang Bin.
  • Produced by Bill Kong, Zhang Yimou at Beijing New Picture/Elite Group, a Miramax release.

Grade..........................B+ (2.5/4)

Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:08:51 PDT