Chi Bi (Red Cliff) (2008)
Director: John Woo.
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Zhou Yu), Takeshi Kaneshiro (Zhuge Liang), Fengyi Zhang (Cao Cao), Chen Chang (Sun Quan), Wei Zhao (Sun Shangxiang), Jun Hu (Zhao Yun), Chiling Lin (Xiao Qiao), Shido Nakamura (Gan Xing), Yong You (Liu Bei), Ba Sen Zha Bu (Guan Yu), Yong Hou (Lu Su).
Prime Minister Cao Cao plans to usurp the Han dynasty throne after he defeats any possible allies of the Han Emperor, but that will prove a difficult task
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
The Prime Minister says that yesterday he proposed war against Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Now he asks if His Majesty has approved the decree? The young Emperor says that the Prime Minister has just beaten back the Northern Wu Wan. Surely, the people need a respite. The Prime Minister says that Sun and Liu rule their own regimes down South and plot against His Majestyís Han Court.
The Prime Minister is impatient with His Majesty. He says tens of thousands of their men have perished on the battlefield for the Great Han Empire. And he reminds His Majesty that it was he that eliminated the threat posed by traitors who had forced His Majesty once into exile. His Majesty seems a bit afraid of the wrath of the Prime Minister, so he says he decrees that Prime Minister Cao Cao be commissioned as the Commander of the Imperial Army to pacify the South.
Senator Kong Rong speaks up. He says that Liu Bei is the uncle of His Majesty. He has no intention of rebelling. But, on the other hand, the Prime Minister is trying to seize all the powers of the state. He insists there is no justifiable reason for war! He goes so far as to say that actually it may be Liu Bei and Sun Quan who will have to put down a rebellion (presumably by the Prime Minister). The Prime Minister gives the sign to complete the execution. A man is beheaded.
In the final year of the Han Dynasty eunuchs and court relatives struggle for power. The country falls into chaos. Ambitious Cao Cao seizes the moment to coerce the emperor and to control the feudal lords.
In the year 208 A.D., Cao Cao leads his army south to destroy Liu Bei, a distant relative of the Royal Family, and Sun Quan, ruler of the Southland.
The Prime Minister gives the order for the battle to begin. General Zhou Zilong kills a great many of the Han warriors. The local fortress is taken and burned.
General Zhao Zilong reports to his commander Liu Bei that they held their ground as long as they could, but they had to abandon the town. News arrives that Liu Beiís two ladies and the Young Master are still trapped in the village.
The chief strategist for the South Zhu-ge Liang rides over to General Zhang, who asks him how does the situation look? The Han cavalry are on their way. They will reflect the sunlight into their eyes to hold them off until the peasants can flee the area.
Zhu-ge Liang rides to speak to His Lord. He tells him that they are going to need another one thousand soldiers. His Lord wants to make sure Cao Cao is prevented from chasing the fleeing peasants, who are Han people fleeing Cao Caoís reign. Zhu-ge Liang says he will go find Guan Yu.
One of the sisters of Liu Beiís wife is killed by the invaders. Now Cao Caoís men want to get the baby. Zilong, General Zhou, comes to the rescue. He kills a great number of enemy warriors. He grabs the baby and still fights off more enemy. My Lady is wounded and so is Zilong. She jumps into the well to kill herself.
As the Han cavalry approaches, General Zhang and his men flip their shields to shine the sunlight into their eyes and those of their horses. A great many men and horses go down. Then General Zhang attacks.
After killing another batch of Han soldiers, Zilong gets on his horse and with the baby tied to his back rides away. Zilong has to fight his way through the Han cavalry to try to get the baby to safety. One of Cao Caoís generals takes note of the manís great fighting ability and asks who is that man. It is Zhao Zilong of Changshan. Zilong gets through to his lines. The Han cavalry gets fresh reinforcements and the forces of General Zhang have to take them on.
Zilong brings the baby to his father, but has to tell His Lord that the two ladies have been killed.
The last man fighting for Liu Bei is General Guan Yu. The Prime Minister spares the manís life saying that one day these great generals now loyal to Liu Bei will fight for him.
The chief strategist tell Liu Bei that he will go to the state of Wu to ask for Sun Quanís support.
The two captured Generals Cai Mao and Zhang Yun come to see Cao Cao. With them are three hundred thousand naval troops and more than two thousand battleships and other ships. The news of the day is that Liu Bei has retreated to Xiakou. He may join forces with Wu. Cao Cao is not concerned. He says Liu Bei is just a loser and Sun Quan is a coward.
Sun Quan tells Zhu-ge that he heard that Cao Cao beat Liu Bei into the mud at Xinye. Zhu-ge says the defeat was only because of the good heart of their leader who chose to protect the fleeing refugees. Cao Cao has 800,000 troops and invades from both land and water. And his real goal is to conquer Wu. He adds that if Cao Cao conquers the Southland, he will usurp the throne of the Han Dynasty. While Sun Quan thinks over the prospect of war, Zhu-ge heads over to Red Cliff to see Viceroy Zhou Yu. Lu Su introduces Zhu-ge to the Viceroy. After spending quite a bit of time with the Viceroy and his wife, the lovely Xiao Ziao, Zhu-ge is ready to leave, saying that the music the Viceroy played told him that he will fight Cao Cao.
Cao Cao has a painting of Xiao Ziao over which he seems obsessed. He met her when she was a girl and now he says she is the most beautiful woman in the world and married to Zhou Yu. After he pacifies Wu, he says, she will be his.
At a tiger hunt Zhu-ge still has to work on convincing the Wu emperor. He forces the emperor to face the tiger and kill it to encourage him to quit hesitating, conquer his fears and face up to Cao Cao. When the emperor gets back to the palace he announces his decision for war.
Zhu-ge returns to his people. He introduces Zilong to the Wu Viceroy. He takes the Viceroy and introduces him to Liu Bei, along with Lt. Viceroy Cheng Pu, Consulting Commander Lu Su and Veteran General Huang Gai. Wu brings 30,000 soldiers to the fight. Liu Bei says that is too few. The Viceroy says an army high in spirit can fight an enemy ten times its size.
Wu Princess Sun Shang Xiang insists on going to war alongside the men, so much so that they just suddenly ride away from her to stop her from going.
Cao Cao has some women dance for him and the crew of the ship he is on. He takes a liking to one of them. He is interrupted by the arrival of a Wu messenger. He brings Wuís response, a blank page. Cao Cao tells his men to behead the messenger.
Princess Sun Shang Xiang shows up again as the men ready for war. The Viceroy predicts that the enemyís navy will come tonight. He also says they are coming to Red Cliff.
Cao Cao says that the navy will only be a diversion. The main attack will be with the army. This is also anticipated by the Allies. The army and navy start their journeys to Red Cliff. As the army approaches Red Cliff the Wu Princess shoots with an arrow a Han scout just reporting that there are no signs of any Wu resistance for the next eight miles.
The army chases after the Princess and her men. The men with the Princess deliberately stir up great clouds of dusts. The Han cavalry chase her only to run straight into an onslaught of arrows from the allied army.
The cavalry and some of the army run past the first line of defense only to find themselves caught in a huge maze of blocks of allied soldiers. This is known as the Bagua formation. The formation then turns into an encirclement of the cavalry. The cavalry are boxed in and then killed. The best warriors of Liu Bei have a field day killing the enemy. The rest of the enemy start running away.
The allies then receive notice that Cao Caoís navy is a bout to land at Red Cliff. They hurry back to Red Cliff.
On board ship Cao Cao receives the bad news that his army has been defeated. He decides to make his camp across the river from Red Cliff.
The allied army returns to the fortress at Red Cliff. They see thousands of ships in the river before them. The Viceroy was wounded in the battle and now his wife helps patch him up. And now the idea of marrying the Wu Princess to recently created widower Liu Bei as a means of uniting the kingdoms further is brought up the brother of the Princess. The Princess does not like being surprised this way, goes over to Liu Bei and gives him a slight punch in the neck that knocks him down. She then leaves.
Zhu-ge talks with the Princess. She has lived all her life in the palace and is sick of it. The Princess also tells him that she is going to the other side of the river just to stir up a little trouble.
Cao Cao has the dancing woman he likes fix tea for him. Her name is Xiao Qiao. And she looks quite a lot like his drawing of Xiao Ziao.
Zhu-ge and the Viceroy think of a way to hinder Cao Caoís navy. If they could eliminate the two "admirals" who know all the rocks and currents in the river, half the fleet would be paralyzed.
The story ends at this point with the words: "To be continued."
Pretty good movie. The action scenes are big and well-done. Iím not all that crazy about action for actionís sake. Many times the story just dragged with unnecessary, drawn out side stories, especially between battle scenes. There are two pretty women in the film but no real love stories. And then the story just ends with the notice that the story will be continued. Itís an epic type movie but besides the action scenes the movie is quite dull.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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