While House of Flying Daggers may be easy to pigeonhole as a movie similar to Zhang Yimou’s own Hero or even Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the only thing you could say about all three is that they have an impressive level of stuntwork that also, features the acting skills of Zhang Ziyi. But where Lee’s work is more story based around three characters’ feelings for one another, and Hero had some great stuntwork set against some breathtaking cinematography, House of Flying Dag…ers seems to trump them all.
Set in 9th century China, Mei (Ziyi) is a blind dancer in a brothel, who a policeman named Leo suspects can help find a rebel group called the House of Flying Daggers, who possess exceptional skills with small knives. Leo enlists the help of Jin to help free Mei from prison (after she attempted to kill Leo at the brothel) to help lure the government to the rebels. Along the way, he falls in love with Mei, and he does not want her to fulfill his mission, and will protect her at any cost. If you think any of these details divulge spoilers in any way, then you may not have seen the movie yet, as there are many twists and turns that keep you off-balance in the film, while enjoying the excellent fight sequences.
While Hero seemed to rely more on some great CG shots, House of Flying Daggers uses the CG a lot less, while at the same time employing some creative use of the technology. Zimou’s “arrow-cam” view in Hero has only gotten better in this film, and it helps that Jin is an expert marksman. And the romantic plot that emerges with Jin, Mei and another man who shall remain nameless is very well done, so much so that my new wife became very invested in the story and its characters. The characters fall into (and make) love with really beautiful backgrounds that have gotta be fake at times, but since China’s such a damn mystery to a lot of us, how would you know?
All in all, House of Flying Daggers is an exceptional piece of filmmaking, with an outstanding high standard for stunts, story and technical filmmaking. I’d read so much about this film I decidedto buy it blind before it shows up on video in the US, and I’m glad I did.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on this disc sound absolutely phenomenal. Since we’re talking about a character who cannot see, the sonic activity here is outstanding and amazing. To Zhang Ziyi navigate through the early scenes in the brothel and especially the end of the dance, make sure to get a subwoofer and speakers to carry the heavy lifting, because you’re in for a ride.
This disc presents this film in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format that looks very good. There are so many colors that come through with great detail, and minimal edge enhancement or other picture issues. This release even erases a number of compression problem found in the R3 release.
The extras found on this disc are very similar to those found in the region 3 import… except the R1 extras include subtitles. Included are a 45-minute making-of featurette, a Visual Effects Featurette, and a very worth while audio commentary by Director Zhang Yimou and star Zhang Ziyi. There is also a storyboard section with a film comparison, a photo gallery, and a music video. Final Thoughts
This disc presents a beautiful film in a wonderful DVD presentation. You get a nice array of extras, and amazing audio and video quality. You should definitely check this disc out, as Yimou is quickly becoming a director of great and varied work.
Special Features List
- Making-of featurette
- Visual Effects Featurette
- Audio commentary
- Photo gallery
- Music Video