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Sunday, June 29, 2008:
"House of Flying Daggers" - movie review (2004)

Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD Release Date: April 19, 2005
Run Time: 119 minutes


Set in the year is 859 AD, as China's once flourishing Tang Dynasty is in decline, unrest is raging throughout the land. The corrupt government is locked in battle with rebel armies that are forming in protest. The largest, and most prestigious of these rebel groups is the House of Flying Daggers, which is growing ever more powerful under a mysterious new leader. Two local captains, Leo and Jin are ordered to capture the new leader and the two hatch an elaborate plan. Captain Jin will pretend to be a lone warrior called Wind and rescue the beautiful, blind revolutionary Mei from prison, earning her trust and escorting her to the secret headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers. The plan works, but to their surprise, Jin and Mei fall deeply in love on their long journey to the House. Danger lurks in the forest surrounding them, and the wind is still, as if sensing the tension in the air. What lies ahead for Jin and Mei, these star-crossed lovers? If this is true love, then why are there plots in their heads, and secrets in their hearts?

This movie is much more interesting than the plot would have you imagine. I saw the preview for it on the DVD of the last movie I rented and reviewed, "Driving Lessons", and the scene where Jin is kissing Mei and taking off his clothes sealed the deal - I HAD to see this movie. Didn't matter what it was about - I was hooked.


Captain Jin is a handsome Captain for the government, and it is his duty to locate the blind daughter of the now deceased rebel leader of the House of Flying Daggers. His search begins in a brothel, where he finds Mei, a beautiful blind girl whose talent is dancing. Acting the playboy is hardly a stretch for the young captain, as he loves women, and he enjoys Mei's looks and her sensual dance. So much so that he tries to seduce her, but are interrupted when Captain Leo and his men storm the brothel, arresting both Jin and Mei. Of course Jin's arrest is planned, as it is a ruse to get Mei to trust him, and she begins to, especially after he frees her from prison and they run away together.

Pretending to be an aimless wanderer named "Wind", Jin stays with Mei as they travel north, evading soldiers who are sent after the two in an effort to lure members of the House of Flying Daggers out of hiding. As the government soldiers continue to follow and attack, it's apparent to Jin that Mei turns out to be as formiddable a fighter as Jin, despite her inability to see. She can be fierce but also innocent, and though she trusts Jin, she does not know him well enough to sleep with him. Of course this frustates him, and she tries to send him away. He goes, but cannot stay away for long. The one-time ladies' man is reluctantly drawn to the lovely, spirited Mei, even as he has a mission to complete that will probably end in her death.

My thoughts:

This film is a vivid, eye-catching, action-packed vision of loveliness. From the jewel-toned costumes to the gracefully orchestrated fight scenes and barely supressed passions, it is a gorgeous, intoxicating adventure right from the start. Equal parts martial-arts film, equal parts love story - or more like a love triangle, as Jin is not the only man in love with Mei - I was quickly swept up in the telling, both visually and by spoken word. Now I will tell you that this film is done in subtitles and dubbed over in English, so that may be a little distracting, but I was able to go along and not feel too jarred by it.

I will admit that I didn't like Jin at the beginning of the film. He was a little too confident in his ways with women, and he seemed to think that fooling Mei into believing he was on her side was going to be child's play. But Mei was not the naive flower he took her for, surprising him again and again with her strength, her fierceness, even her innocence and joy in the simple things. He finds himself reaching for her hand during moments of crisis, maybe as much for his own reassurance as for hers. I found this to be very touching.

Also, everything is not what it seems to be in this movie. There are plenty of twist and turns to keep you riveted to the screen, but not too many to make it confusing and hard to follow. It's difficult not to give too much of the plot away, but suffice it to say, it gives the story more depth.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is visually stunning, deeply romantic while at the same time being tragically sad. If you've not seen it, go forth and watch it. If you have, I'd be curious to know what you thought of it.

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****

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  1. I saw this movie years ago and I remember enjoying it. I need to watch it again, because i do not remember a lot about it.

  2. I saw this one about a year ago and remember being quite taken with the very hot guy. ummy yummy!

  3. I saw this when it came out and loved it. Weird but beautiful.

  4. This is one of my most favorite movies. The cinematography is phenomenal and like you said, the story is romantic yet sad. I love a star-crossed lovers story line and this one is in epic proportions.

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