Hero is based on a period of ancient Chinese history when the country was divided into warring kingdoms. The most powerful of the kingdoms, Qin, is the setting here as the king is visited by a Nameless Warrior (Jet Li) who claims to have killed three assassins that have kept the sovereign awake each night – Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Sky (Donnie Yen). Allowed to approach to within ten paces of the king, the Nameless Warrior gives an account of how he came to defeat the three assassins that the king’s entire army could not even wound.
Zhang Yimou’s film is a visual dream, full of stunning effects, a vibrant array of colourful settings, jaw dropping scenery and an intriguing storyline. The film begins with the Nameless Warrior’s arrival at the palace of the King of Qin and his careful escort to the throne. As the Nameless Warrior recalls his encounters with the three assassins we are treated to some memorable exchanges. The duels with Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow are all simply breathtaking, especially the emotional battle with Broken Sword which has to be seen to be believed.
There are few characters in Hero but the main six who are involved in proceedings each have their own loyalties and motivations. Nothing is what it seems in Hero. We are given multiple interpretations of what has been going on but both tales are equally intriguing and worth the wait. The ending will keep you guessing and the outcome may surprise the audience given the Nameless Warrior’s unwavering focus on his duty.
This a far more thrilling experience than the much lauded Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Hero also offers a reflection of a divided China, before the first Emperor had even ruled the united land. The fights in ancient China’s history were unlikely to have been as beautiful as the ones here but Hero still provides a fascinating background to China before its unification. Sit back and enjoy this thrill a minute ride.
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