Wednesday, May 18, 2005

House of Flying Daggers

I recently watched this movie, after having it sit around the house for a week or so. Like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers is a movie of the WuXia genre.

The movie is set at a time when the government is corrupt, and a rebellion called the House of Flying Daggers, named for their curved boomerang-like daggers, has emerged as champions of the people. Two army officers (Leo and Jin) plot how to arrest the leader of the Flying Daggers, first by investigating a rumor that a nearby girl (Mei, played by Zhang Ziyi) is a member.

Jin goes over and meets Mei, who is blind but dances beautifully. She is exposed and arrested, but later Jin sneaks into the prison, defeats the guards, and frees her. They escape to the countryside and flee the soldiers sent to bring them back - in a nice fight scene, Jin saves Mei from four guards with his bow and arrow, and wins her confidence. All this time he has been charming her, and they bond a little bit. Later, when she is resting, he sneaks off to meet Leo in the forest and we find out that Jin is only playing the part of an aspiring rebel - everything is staged and his mission is to win her confidence.

However, there is a twist - Leo explains the general sent another regiment of soldiers to hunt them down, so they are on their own for survival. Jin is outraged he might have to kill his fellow officers, but he has no choice - the soldiers are ordered to kill them. So he and Mei keep fleeing, but they are surrounded and trapped by dozens of men. As they draw near, dozens of swooping daggers fly out and kill all the soldiers - the House of Flying Daggers has appeared to save them!

Jin and Mei are brought in, and Jin finds out the Mei isn't blind after all, she was just pretending. Another surprise - Leo is actually an undercover agent sent by the House. He's infiltrated the army and has been there for three years, working the setup this situation - the general has overcommited his troops and the rebellion is at last ready to squash the corrupt government. Leo is ordered back to continue his work. But we also find out Leo has been in love with Mei for years, but it is unreturned.

Unfortunately, the leader order Mei to kill Jin, to protect their secret. She takes him out, but sets him free, because she has fallen in love with him. He loves her, and in turn, they have a... romantic moment out on the hillside. It is beautiful scenery: multi colored trees and jagged mountains.

Jin asks her to run away with him, to be together but fugitives. She initially hesitates, and he rides off, but then she takes off after him. As she gallops across a field to join him, Leo appears, and throws two daggers at her. She blocks one but takes the other in her chest. Leo explains that he is basically jealous, he's loved her for longer but she loves Jin instead.

Jin goes looking for her, finds her stabbed with Leo holding her, and the two square off for a sword fight. It rages on for a long time - snow starts to fall but they don't notice. Mei regains consciousness, the two stop fighting, but she dies trying to save Jin from what she thought was a fatal attack by Leo. The movie ends with Jin holding her body while Leo staggers away.

So, not the happiest ending but a pretty good movie. The plot had a few twists, but over time, the romance angle dominated the story. The costumes were colorful and elaborate, plus it had all the gravity-defying martial arts and well choreographed fight scenes I was expecting.

No comments: