Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Warrior (5 Stars)

This is a South Korean film made in 2001. At the time of its release it was the biggest budget Korean film ever. It's been released with various names, including "Musa" (a transliteration of the Korean title), "The Warrior" and "Princess of the Desert". I'll stick with "The Warrior", the title of the UK release.

The film is based on a historical event in 1375. China was divided between the Ming Dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty. The Yuan Dysnasty was fading in strength while the Ming Dynasty was growing. A team of diplomats were sent from Korea to the Ming Dynasty, but they were accused of being spies and exiled from the kingdom. They were never seen again. So much is true. "The Warrior" is a fictional tale of what happened to the team after their exile into the desert.

Ming soldiers led the diplomats and their entourage into the desert to escort them to the borders of the kingdom. On the way they were ambushed by Yuan soldiers who killed the Ming soldiers but spared the Koreans. General Choi decided to lead the diplomatic party back to Korea, but on the way they encounter a Ming princess who has been kidnapped by Yuan soldiers. They free the princess and turn back towards China, hoping to find favour with the Ming Dynasty for returning the princess. This isn't an easy task. Yuan soldiers now pursue them in an attempt to re-capture the princess.

Even though only small groups of soldiers are involved, the film has the feeling of being an epic. Great care is taken to introduce us to the Korean party, letting us know their backgrounds, their strengths and their weaknesses. The most interesting character is the princess, played by the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi. When we first meet her she is proud and haughty. She doesn't thank the Koreans for fleeing her because she sees it as their duty, even though they aren't her people. Later on she softens when she sees innocent civilians fleeing from Yuan soldiers. Eventually she sees herself as one of the team with the Koreans.

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