Warriors of Heaven and Earth

Director: He Ping

2003. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 119 mins.

Director He Ping’s epic genre piece is set in the eastern half of the Silk Road, at the start of the 8th century AD. It follows a caravan mission through the Gobi desert after a Tang Dynasty emperor dispatches a Japanese emissary to murder a revered Chinese lieutenant for not wanting to kill innocent Turks. The Chinese imperial agent, Sir Lai Xi (Jiang Wen), gangs up with his adversary, Lai Oi (Nakai Kichi), and together they help the rag-tag caravan negotiate both the slings and arrows of outrageous bandits and Mother Nature’s CGI wrath. The sudden appearance halfway through of a Buddhist reliquary subplot takes a basically gutsy sword-?ghting yarn into mystical fantasy territory. The real star of the ?lm is cinematographer Zhao Fei (Raise the Red Lantern, The Emperor and the Assassin), whose images of the dusty Xinjiang locations are frequently eye-popping.

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