Shadow [Mandarin] (2019) - 6.5/10
Watched Jul 28, 2019
RedShoelace’s review published on Letterboxd:
Shadow is one of those good Chinese martial arts epics like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with more beneath the surface. Right off the bat you notice how absolutely bleak in terms of colour scale the film is, many near black and white scenes, muted grays and constant rain. While not quite a black and white film, which you'll discover once the action begins and the blood starts flowing, it is one that handles its visuals and cinematography with purpose. As the opening title card would tell you; a shadow was employed by lords and nobles of the era to act as hidden surrogates in order to keep the master safe from political intrigue. Chao Deng is exactly that, a shadow of the high ranking military commander, trained since a young boy to live the life of another person. What I enjoyed about the movie was how the visual style was not used in a gimmicky manner which I find sometimes with modern films opting to go black and white. With Shadow, the lack of colours represents the duplicitous nature of many of the characters and more importantly the shadow himself.
To say this was on par with the action of Crouching Tiger or epic scale of Hero would be a slight exaggeration of the works of director Zhang Yimou. It is good nonetheless, the action sequences rife with effective and bloody slow motions are well executed and done so in an artistic fashion. Does it get corny when a one hundred man invasion squad starts rolling down the street on their metal sword umbrellas like it's a day at the water park - sure. That's what you typically get with these Chinese action films though and it's also truly part of the charm. The set designs take you back in time, the costume designs were well done and even the intentionally fake CGI landscapes are suitable. Shadow is one of those fun historical action films with political intrigue, backstabbing and some great cinematic merits. Is it perfect? Not by any stretch, but it's one worth watching whether you're a fan of the genre or not.