VOD film review: Shadow (2018)
Ivan Radford | On 14, Apr 2020
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, Leo Wu, Wang Jingchun
After Matt Damon misstep The Great Wall, Zhang Yimou returns to form with Shadow, a stunningly beautiful martial arts epic that sees the master doing what he does best: crafting breathtaking action set pieces.
He and co-writer Wei Li take us into a world of doubles and deception, as we witness the war between neighbouring kingdoms Pei and Jing, one that’s led to the most important people in each city having their own decoys to protect their lives. These surrogate doubles (Shadows) are deployed as weapons by their masters – and by themselves in their own right. As one general plots to trump the other kingdom using his wife, a look-alike and two kings, the script weaves a ying-yang tapestry of fate and identity that plays out like Face Off meets Infernal Affairs.
Kings, commanders, sisters and soldiers all collide and cross each other in a complex dance that is matched perfectly by creative cinematography; DoP Zhao Xiaoding uses water as a recurring symbol and layers of translucent wall panels to send half the screen into black-and-white while keeping the other half in eye-popping colour. They’re some of the best visuals you’ll see in a movie this year.
The plot? Well, it’s a load of balderdash that increasingly winds up and unravels to an absurdly contrived degree. But the spectacle is jaw-dropping, the pace relentless and it all builds impeccably up to an incredible sequence that involves the innovative use of metallic umbrellas to deadly, gripping effect. What a joy it is to witness the Hero and House of Flying Daggers director at work.