The Great Wall Reviewed By Jon E Clist

The Premise
When a mercenary warrior (Damon) is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of the world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

The Review
Okay so let’s start with the elephant in the room. Why is the lead in a Chinese film about the Great Wall of China being played by an American? How does that even work? We all pretty much thought the same thing, sounds like a Hollywood whitewashing of an international story. Here’s the thing though… it’s not really that sort of film. This is an action fantasy film that involves monsters, legends and above all myths. This is a film that is brought to us by the makers of such dazzling martial arts based fantasy films such as House of Flying Daggers and The Curse of The Golden Flower. So, this is not some historically accurate ‘history Channel” type film and therefore it is about entertainment and the connection of the European characters into the storyline as mercenaries in search of gunpowder actually adds rather than subtracting from the plot.

For example, despite the poster saying the Great Wall took 1700 years to build, it is a series of several walls built separately over that time by various ruling dynasties during this time frame. Each new wall section built by any single ruler would take approximately 10-20 years to construct.

Good to get that out of the way so we can focus more on what this film is, and that is a high energy, action-packed battle film with stunning visuals, dynamic fight sequences and some pretty cool characters. It should be noted that this is the most expensive Chinese film ever made. Expect it to be visually stunning delectable to behold.

While the European contingent in the film are all great, I think it is the Asian cast that carry this film and bring it to life. Andy Lau is his usual brilliantness and even though this is his first Hollywood film, he has already established himself as a great action/dramatic actor. It is cool to see that while they now come together on the big screen in this film, both Lau and Damon have something rather cool in common. They both played the role of the gang member working as a mole in the police force in Infernal Affairs and The Departed respectively. Andy Lau played a triad member & senior inspector Lau working for the Hong Kong Police Force. Matt Damon played his American counterpart, staff sergeant Collin Sullivan of the Massachusetts State Police and member of the Irish mob.

While I was potentially expecting more of a historical drama around the building of the Great Wall (Having not watched any trailers) I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that was a little more Warcraft: The Beginning mixed with the classic fantastical martial arts films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

The Verdict
A wonderful visual display of great action that needs to be enjoyed in HD on the big screen or at minimum on a decent sized flatscreen on BluRay.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 16th February 2017
Rating: M -Contains violence
Duration: 103 minutes 
Genre:  Fantasy/Action
Starring: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Hanyu Zhang, Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin
Director: Yimou Zhang ('Hero', 'House of Flying Daggers', 'Curse of the Golden Flower')

The Extras

Majority of the movie was filmed in China and some scenes in New Zealand.

Before his untimely tragic death in a plane accident the late composer James Horner was contracted to write a score to this movie.

Andy Lau's first Hollywood movie.

Bryan Cranston was in early talks to join the film but Willem Dafoe took his role.

Edward Zwick was set to direct at one point, with Henry Cavill to star.

Alexander SkarsgÄrd was considered for a role before Benjamin Walker was cast, then he dropped out.

Luhan is a former member of a popular Korean boy band. He left EXO (Korean Band) in October of 2014. He was one of the 4 Chinese members.