The Assassin (2016) Review
Set in 8th Century China and based on a Chinese martial arts story, The Assassin sends audiences back to the stylish world of the Tang Dynasty.
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, the story follows Nie Yinniang, an Assassin, who after failing to carry out an order, is tasked with proving herself to her master by assassinating her cousin Tian Ji'an, lord of the Weibo circuit. Will Nie choose family over master? Or will her emotions get the better of her?
This beautiful stylistic martial arts film may be one of the best presented films to have been released in the last 12 months but suffers slightly on the coherent front as this plot may be difficult for western audiences to follow on their first viewing.
The basic plotline is plain as day for all to see; "Will Nie Yinniang prove her worth as an Assassin when tasked with murdering her cousin?" But being based on Chinese folklore, there is a lot more at play that will require audiences unfamiliar with the source material to invest time in extra research or a second viewing. Not that that is necessarily a negative against The Assassin. Hou Hsiao-Hsien has crafted a stunningly gorgeous and realistic world that captivates the audiences with its pure wonder.
Shot in 4:3 with breathtaking visuals and cinematography, this rich and vivid world is eloquently brought to life. Graceful sweeping shots of quiet so much larger than whats on screen.
This however is not a typical martial arts film. The focus is placed more upon the lead up to the confrontation and the consequences presented afterwards. Even with minimalist fight scenes, you cant help but be blown away by their fluidity and grace.
The Assassin is most certainly a love letter the ancient Chinese folklore with Hou Hsiao-Hsien putting his own flavour into the martial arts genre which makes the film a gem of modern Asian cinemas simply because of its presentation.
This Blu-Ray is distributed by Studio Canal and is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 4:3
The menu screen is beautifully presented with Chinese instrumentals as background music.
The picture quality is superb for a Blu-Ray with no fluctuation between FPS or quality throughout the entire movie.
The sound quality is crystal clear with all dialogue audible without the need to manually increase the volume which enables the viewer to become fully invested with what's on screen.
NIE YINNIANG (3:17) - a look at creating a realistic Martial Arts film.
THE ACTORS: NO REHEARSALS (3:52) - Actors talking about their experiences making the film.
THE FIGHTS BETWEEN MASTERS (3:02) - Simplified fights that are more about the before and after. Director talks about casting actors on personality rather than history.
A TIME MACHINE TO THE TANG DYNASTY (3:07) - Cast and crew talking about importance of costume and set design.