A provincial guardsman goes undercover and breaks a blind swordswoman out of prison to discover the location of a secret society of rebellious assassins.
Zhang Yimou’s follow up to Hero is a similarly stunning combination of artistic visuals and beautifully choreographed martial arts, but this time he throws an epic story of unrequited love into the mix. The story’s format is another favourite of Chinese cinema, that of the undercover cop with divided loyalties, but blended with mythical fantasy and star-crossed lovers it plays out almost like The Departed crossed with Romeo And Juliet. This makes for a more complex character dynamic than that of Hero and therefore a more engaging story, although it does suffer similarly to the previous film in that it can feel like the plot is just a series of excuses for ever more visually glorious set pieces.
For that reason Zhang is probably once again guilty of putting style over substance, but what style it is.