Director: Zhang Yimou
Time: 104 minutes
This story takes place in the 11th Century in Northwest China. A band of soldiers, disguised as merchants, led by William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are going to China in an attempt to bring back gun powder (black powder in the film) and get rich. Their plans are thrown a bit off track when they are attacked by bandits. They manage to escape but during the night they are attacked by something totally different. William manages to cut off an arm of their monstrous assailant but the next day they face an army stationed at the Great Wall. This is when things really get interesting.
When I first saw the commercials for this movie, I thought “Oh, Chinese movie the monster must be a dragon”. It turns out that I was very wrong about that. The monster is referred to as a tao tei. The only thing I will say about that is the CGI people did an excellent job in creating them. The story is a very exciting adventure with some funny lines between Damon and Pascal. The battle scenes were also very well done. Jing Tian as General Lin, the leader of an all female corps does a good job of acting as well as Willem Dafoe as Sir Ballard who had also come to China for gunpowder but became an English teacher instead.
I think that this was a very good example of cooperation between China and the United States. Some US/China movies are not very good due to poor acting choices by the Americans. Matt Damon was a very smart choice as the lead. The script was written by US writers but they did a very credible job creating a Chinese story. I would give this 4 stars out of 5 because one scene was a bit slow and I would have liked a bit more history given in the beginning of the film because I do like history.