A Chinese historical war epic of the first order, John Woo’s return to filmmaking at home received a five-hour running time in its release there---earning a record box office
---but this version is in the two-and-a-half-hour range. Maybe some of the drama was lost as a result in this, the austerity edition, where some of the deeper character details are smudged in a sprawling cast. But the compensations in the film’s form and structure are many, especially the elaborate wide-shot battle sequences, perfectly choreographed hand-to-hand combat and the poppy-bright arterial fountains, seamlessly enhanced with CGI, all of which approaches Peter Jackson-levels of scale. After the hollow Windtalkers and Paycheque, this is really something. And fans of Woo’s work will thrill to a never-better signature dove sequence at the one-hour mark.