The Assassin – Film Review

the assassin

The Assassin – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writers: Cheng Ah (screenplay) (as Zhong Acheng) , T’ien-wen Chu (screenwriter)
Stars: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki

Over his career, director Hsiao-Hsien Hou has built up a reputation for visually stunning, detailed work. The Assassin is no exception, winning Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival 2015, and nominated for Best Foreign Film at the BAFTAs.

In his first venture into martial arts, Hsiao-Hsien Hou turns his attentions to 8th century China, and the ancient discord between the Court, and the Weibo province. Inspired by the wuxia story of Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), The Assassin follows Yinniang (Shu Qi) as she returns home after years spent training to become a master killer, under the tutelage of Jiaxin (Fang-Yi Sheu), a Taoist nun. Appointed to dispatch corrupt officials, Yinniang returns to the Weibo province with the assignment of killing her cousin, charismatic military governor Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen). However, far from being a killing machine, Yinniang’s skill is balanced by her conscience; and a childhood bond with Tian Ji’an forces her to hesitate.

Shu Qi is mesmerizing in the largely silent central role. Her skill is demonstrated through economy of movement: Her opponents move frenziedly, while she utterly dominates the action. Her silence and stillness command incredible presence, and we learn about Yinniang’s history only from other characters; often as she waits in the shadows.

Working once again with cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin, Hsiao-Hsien Hou shows incredible attention to detail. The design is breathtaking both in the lavish interiors, and vast landscapes; and each frame of the film could be a striking photograph. There are moments where specifics of plot and hierarchy are hard to follow, and despite thrilling action sequences, this is not a fast paced action film. But with beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and fascinatingly underplayed performances, The Assassin is a visual feast which unsurprisingly has garnered much attention around the world.



Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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