The Sword With No Name Review

The Film

Polyester is a very useful fabric. It's a real boon to manufacturers of shiny suits and static laden sheets. It can look classy in the packaging before it feels rather second rate next to your skin. You might buy the best polyester suit that could have been helped into existence by the greatest tailor, yet it is still polyester - unnatural, not as nice as cotton or linen, and, all in all, quite inferior.
Because no one has made a way of delivering cinema with an added tactile dimension, I can't say for sure if the film on review uses a lot of polyester but it certainly looks that way. The Sword With No Name is shiny with colours which seem a direct challenge to your retinas and to historical accuracy. It delivers shiny sword fights in the mode of video games one moment and then asks you to believe its emotional and historical integrity the next. It is cinematic polyester.

You do get an interesting story of a forward thinking queen and the devotion she receives from a persistent and enamoured guard. You could enjoy echoes of the ideas of personal sacrifice in tension with political goals that featured so strongly in Yimou's wu xias. You might see further parallels with the use of a heroine with principles and intelligence much like that director's most interesting films. But then I dare you to continue that train of thought by identifying when Yimou has ever mounted a sword fight with no choreography or dramatic soul other than CGI blurs.
Similarly, the grasp of politics and ethics is rather weak. The Queen is pro western and brings in European influences to a protectionist Korean court, yet the finale relies on a xenophobia, and more bad CGI, that directly contradicts her supposed enlightenment. Character is similarly bent for narrative purposes with one antagonist being excused his villainy for a redemptive patriotism in the conclusion.

And these huge flaws happen because this epic movie is shiny polyester when cotton or linen would have been better. Where celluloid and lo-fi effects would have complemented period and feel, the polyester quality gives us gaudy video and dreadful animation. The shiny fabric, the cackhanded visuals and the lack of a true moral grasp leaves simple pop video theatrics and dumb romance to fill the vacuum.
Any film which relies on a flashback where the heroine has her eyeball licked out to remove some fly is either parodic or lacking any awareness, and here the latter is the case. Shiny, shiny costumes, shallow, shallow morality, and nothing to grip onto as substantial or real - The Sword With No Name is a polyester film in a natural world.

Technical Specs

Presented on a region free BD 50 with about 60% of the capacity used, the transfer takes up 27.4GB. Contrast is pretty poor and night time sequences lack detail and show poor black levels. Throughout colours seem gaudy, skin-tones overly pinky and the overall image is thoroughly artificial looking. This is an underwhelming transfer.
Two Korean soundtracks are included with a lossy stereo mix competing with a master audio option. It's not much of a competition obviously and the extra dimensionality of the master audio 5.1 mix adds plenty of effects across the sound-stage and gives that action more impact in this respect. Bass is strong, the balance of voices and music is well judged and the only problem is some occasionally weak subtitles which are removable.

Special Features

Lots of standard definition trailers are included of the Cine Asia range. The making of featurette is 10 minutes of footage from the shooting of key scenes which are far from enlightening but are at least subtitled. The interview featurette catches the two main leads together and then the female lead on her own. This is a very stilted polite piece where little is said of interest or of a revelatory nature.


It's competent enough but lacking any originality or depth. I would point you in the direction of far better historical epics from Asia or if you want an enjoyable Korean action romp then Bichunmoo is far more worthy of your time than this rather average affair.

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out of 10

Last updated: 14/07/2018 05:11:24

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