Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Director: Zhang Yimou
Running Time: 119 mins
House Of Flying Daggers is a Chinese film about a police captain who breaks a talented young woman out of prison and flees to reunite with the notorious rebel group the Flying Daggers, but their allegiances are not as they seem.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the martial arts genre, seeing as I was disappointed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and found Hero nothing really spectacular. However, I’ve finally found a wuxia film that I can love in House Of Flying Daggers: an emotionally riveting, visually dazzling and hugely exciting film that uses martial arts perfectly in tandem with a well-told story about love, loss and betrayal.
I’m going to start by quickly telling you my issue with the genre in general. Normally, these sorts of wuxia films rely too heavily on the spectacle of their action sequences, often at the expense of a good story. Some do have good plots beneath the surface, but more often that not, you’re met with ten-minute long fights that take away from the intensity of the characters’ journey, which both cheapens the spectacle of the action, and frustratingly disrupts the course of the plot.
However, the best thing about House Of Flying Daggers is that it doesn’t go overboard with the martial arts sequences. They’re still a principal force in the film, but they’re much more effectively spread out, and don’t last too long either, allowing the story and the characters to remain at the forefront of your attention too.
And what’s even better is that when you do get an action sequence, it feels a lot more special. Here, I was really entertained by the martial arts in a way that previous films just haven’t made me feel, and it allowed me to appreciate the visual craft of director Zhang Yimou in those set-pieces, which is absolutely wonderful.
Never going quite as far as his striking imagery in Hero, Zhang succeeds in House Of Flying Daggers by keeping the look of the film much more realistic, including using less special effects and arty camera work in the action sequences, but still retaining a very vibrant colour palette that makes this a genuinely beautiful film to watch.
Moving onto the story, which works really well. The story of the relationship between the two leads, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro, is fascinating from start to finish, and made hugely unpredictable by the various spanners thrown in the works at certain points throughout. Whilst not the most passionate romance you’ve ever seen, the development of that relationship does play a key part in making some of the action in the latter stages feel even more intense, and far more exciting, leading up to a brilliant finale.
Overall, I was really impressed by House Of Flying Daggers. It’s not the greatest action film ever made, but it managed to get me invested in a genre that, up till now, I’ve been a big sceptic of, with dazzling visuals, an impressively emotional story, and effective use of martial arts, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.