The Promise, director Chen Kaige’s latest, is a movie that’s a bit different than its fellow Asian epics. Kaige created his own world instead of going back to Ancient China. In the world of “The Promise”, physics takes a back seat. We have people outrunning a stampeding heard of bulls and a Goddess that float about dispensing tarot readings. To say that “The Promise” is a fantasy movie would be entirely accurate, but don’t go thinking it kills the movie. It only adds to it.
One of the main characters is a slave named Kunlin, played by Korean actor Jang Dong-Kun, from the Land of the Snow. After his slave trading master is killed during a battle being fought by General Guangming, a man decked out in a flamboyant crimson armor, Kunlun ends up as Guangming’s new slave. Soon, slave and master crosses paths with the lovely Princess Qingcheng, played by the beautiful Cecelia Cheung, who is so lovely she can get an army to drop their weapons for a glimpse of her in the buff. We also meet Duke Wuhuan, played by Nicholas Tse, who wants Qingcheng for reasons unbeknownst, but if you pay attention you’ll probably guess his reasons before it’s revealed at the end.
Although the four main characters get most of the screen time, the film’s emotional highlights involve Wuhuan’s right-hand assassin, Snow Wolf, played by Ye Liu, who comes from the same Land of the Snow as Kunlun. The two men’s interactions make up the movie’s most sincere and affecting moments, with Snow Wolf’s situation beside Wuhuan even less tenable than Kunlun’s. Snow Wolf is the embodiment of a doomed man permanently locked in a state of emotional anguish.
It must be said that the cinematography was absolutely stunning, combine it with the vibrant colors of the costumes and surroundings and it looks absolutely amazing. Some of the special effects looked a bit cheesy though, but thankfully that only lasted for a few seconds at a time and was mostly confined to when Kunlun was running super fast. The costume department did a great job with some really beautiful costumes, which fit each characters personality perfectly. I don’t think enough can be said about how colorful and vibrant the look of the movie was.
“The Promise” is something you have to watch with an open mind, don’t sit there thinking to yourself that such and such is impossible because it will ruin the experience for you. Just go with the flow and enjoy yourself.