Warlords (2007): So much better than expected

Warlords is a great movie. Far, far better than I expected. Not the usual at all. A wonderful example of Chinese cinema.

Gorgeous opulent pictures, a heartbreaking, thoughtful story, epic battle scenes, amazing landscapes, a very special atmosphere, poetical in tone, complex relationships and an excellent cast. Jet Li surprised me completely. I would never have expected him to be capable of such nuanced acting. Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro are superb as well and so is Jinglei Xu as Lian.

Set in 19th century China during the Taiping rebellion Warlords follows the destiny of General Pang (Jet Li). He is the only survivor of his unit ( thanks to a shameful act). All the others have been massacred. He finds refuge in the mountains among bandits and convinces their chief and his brother to follow him and become soldiers. The three men  who feel a very close bond early on take an oath to live and die for one another.

We soon follow them from battlefield to battlefield. Pang seems to have the highest moral standards that he manages to keep up even though they are constantly at war. But the longer the war lasts, the more it gets difficult for him to live up to these standards. Finally, in order to do a greater good, as he says,  he is willing to commit what one of the brothers sees as a crime. What started as a close friendship turns into the opposite developing a destructive dynamic. The core message of this film seems to be: War is ultimately ugly and nothing good can come out of it.

Warlords is really a story of Shakespearian proportions. It did also remind me of Greek tragedies. Only much darker. And still it is a compellingly beautiful movie.

Large scale cinema at its very best. I will definitely watch it again.

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6 thoughts on “Warlords (2007): So much better than expected

  1. TPC says:

    I’m glad you liked it a lot, I thought it was good.

    • Yes, it really is. I didn’t think so at the beginning but then, when the whole moral and emotional drama unfolded it changed its face somehow. And the cinematography is beautiful. Quite somber though…

  2. TPC says:

    I believe in that movie, one character says 40 million Chinese died in the civil wars, sure is a lot, maybe that is exagerrated. I thought I read you say this above but I can’t find it, perhaps this is movie is a bit like the 300 or Three Hundred, that movie, where things are slightly exagerrated or made like a myth.

    Chinese history seems to be interesting since the population is so big and has been and the civilization is so old. Just a tie in to of all movies, Grand Torino, I studied a little bit of Hmong history. Most of the Hmong in the USA came from Laos as the Hmong are central to the Grand Torino plot. But those Hmong left China because of the upheaval in China and probably in centuries close to the time of this movie. Hmong still live in China too where they are known as the Miao. It’s all real fascinating history, unfortunately, I guess the Hmong/Miao may have been persecuted in China. As I said that is history I don’t know.

    I’d like to see the Hmong in a war movie. Actually, one of my favorite war movies is Bridge over River Kwai because tribal like peoples help the Allies in the jungle. A bit like what the Hmong did in the Indochina war. Of course, though that part of the Bridge over the river Kwai may have been when they were traversing through Burma or Siam or Thailand, the Hmong actually dispersed into many countries and besides that, there are a number of these types of tribes from what I understand in Asia, not just the Hmong.

    • 40 million sure sound like a lot. But it is such a massive country. Will have to investigate. Before the “cultural revolution” this was certainly one of the most refined cultures. Japan was influenced a lot and not the other way around.

      I think there might even be Hmong in Cambodia. Anyway you are giving me ideas. I will see if they are in one of the French movies on Indochina. I have only seen one or two but there are some more.

      Must watch Gran Torino soon…

      I must admit I have not re watched The Bridge on the River Kwai but will soon. It is too long ago to remember properly.
      I hope we will see more movies in the future that strive for realism and will included people like the Hmong. Nowadays I am already glad if I see a movie on WWII where the Japanese are depicted as humans…

      Let me know, if you find out anything on your side.

      When I studied cultural anthropology we had a course on warfare and we learned that the trenches were an invention of the Maoris of New Zealand… A very belligerent people. Anyway, would be interesting as a movie topic.

  3. TPC says:

    Soon I will watch Mongol, the rise of Ghengis Khan, he and Attila the Hun would seem to be exciting subjects for movies. I think in this Mongol movie, they are speaking Mongolian. Looks good so far. I’m not sure you have reviewed it.

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