The Grand Canyon. The Northern Lights. Van Gogh's sunflowers. We've all been stricken speechless by vivid displays of color. For me, there's the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the shimmering metallic blue of Pacific Ocean waves at twilight; the day I discovered first-hand that ladybugs sometimes hibernate on mountaintops, clustered together in masses, blood red against white snow (hard to believe, but true).

To that list of awe-inspiring and vividly colorful experiences, I'd have to add the first time I saw Zhang Yimou's Hero on the big screen.

It's strange to consult a thesaurus for words that mean "beautiful" while I'm writing a review of a martial arts epic. But that's what Hero does to its audience. The gravity-defying duels between swordsmen are some of the most spectacular you'll ever see. An all-star team of China's most talented screen actors delivers performances of astounding physical skill and delicate emotion. Adventures, debates, epic battles, and revenge quests weave together into a complex tapestry. And the soundtrack by Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is lush and stirring. But those colors …

Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung)

Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung)

Sometimes, we miss out on the best films merely because they're "foreign." Hero sat neglected on the shelf at Miramax for two years while gaining popularity in China and with fans of Hong Kong cinema who got hold of import DVDs. Those responsible for stalling it should be rounded up and fired. It won an Oscar nomination in 2003 while still unreleased in the States, but the Academy voters who didn't give it a fair shake should be ashamed of themselves. If you miss seeing Hero on the big screen, you have missed one of the peaks of cinematic spectacle-on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star ...

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Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality)
Directed By
Yimou Zhang
Run Time
2 hours
Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung
Theatre Release
August 27, 2004 by Miramax
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