On the eve of China's first dynasty, a mysterious man (Jet Li) explains to a warlord how he eliminated three assassins, but his story keeps changing as the warlord questions him; each version of the events is signified visually by a dominant color. Like Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this 2002 feature by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, The Road Home) is an action movie with an art-house sensibility, yet the similarity ends there: where Lee was romantic, Zhang is coolly distant, focusing on how adversaries read each other's motives from tiny clues. The result is both thrilling and thoughtful, offering imaginative action sequences (a fight on the surface of a lake, two assassins fending off a shower of arrows) as it considers questions of loyalty and the individual's role in history. In Mandarin with subtitles.
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