by: Sean Harrison
The Great Wall is a movie detailing one president’s quest to build a wall between the USA and Mexico. This is to keep Mexicans from immigrating to the States without permission, but they predictably dig a whole underneath the wall. Oh wait, that’s the wrong movie. That last part is eerily familiar, though.
This movie is actually the latest film directed by the great Zhang Yimou, who is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers to ever come out of mainland China. Likewise, this is also his first movie primarily done in the English language, although the Flowers of War also had quite a bit of dialogue in English. To achieve this, he acquired Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe to round out the cast, along with Jing Tian and Andy Lau.
Now, as for the story, if you’ve seen the trailer you can probably figure out that this is a monster movie set in ancient China (the Song dynasty to be exact). Ultimately, the movie follows two mercenaries who survive an attack from one of the monsters on the way to China, where they intend to acquire black powder. They kill the monster in the process, but get taken captive by the Chinese soldiers at the wall. Soon, said wall comes under siege from the monsters and it is revealed that the monsters have gotten smarter since they previously attacked the wall sixty years before. This is explained in the plot of the movie. However, it is also shown that the wall has lost its effectiveness. The monsters dig a tunnel and head for the emperor. Meanwhile, the characters played by Dafoe and Pascal try to escape with the titular black powder.
As for the movie itself, I did enjoy it to a certain extent. Basically, it was an entertaining popcorn flick. Also, it is beautifully shot as to be expected with a Yimou film. The action sequences were also fantastic, especially the first one on the wall. However, the issue lies in the casting of Matt Damon. This wasn’t whitewashing, since his character was supposed to be Irish, only, Damon’s Irish accent wasn’t very good. The movie would have done better to cast someone like Michael Fassbender in Damon’s stead. Additionally, the CGI wasn’t as good as we’re used to in the States but that’s more because there isn’t as much of a market for CGI in China. That did not deter me from enjoying the movie, although it was definitely the worst Yimou film I’ve seen. But that’s not saying much, considering four of the other five are absolutely brilliant, especially The Curse of the Golden Flower, which is among my favorite movies.