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The Promise (CHINA 2005)

Director / Writer : Chen Kaige
Producer : Chen Kaige, Chen Hong
Cinematography : Peter Pau
Art Direction : Tim Yip
Action Director : Tung Wai, Dion Lam
Costume : Masago Kimiya
Cast : Jang Dong-Kun, Cecilia Cheung, Hiroyuki Sanada, Liu Ye, Nicholas Tse, Chen Hong, Cheng Qian

An epic fantasy about a love triangle between a general, a princess and a slave in ancient China. Empowered by the love of a slave, a royal concubine is given the chance to make an extraordinary decision. Its an epic story about “promise, betrayal, nations and love”. Can Love Change Destiny?

by Gary Cheah

WARNING : Might contain Spoilers

Despite all the “negative” reviews on the net, it does not stop me from watching The Promise on the big silver screen. I went into the cinema with minimal expectation on the film, but in the end -it’s quite satisfactory i would say…

The Promise is Chen Kaige’s (Farewell My Concubine, The Emperor and the Assassin) mega-production of an epic fantasy with an astonishing budget of USD40 million, making it the most expensive Asian film ever made. With an international casts drawn from the Pan-Asian countries, its star-studded with Jang Dang Gun (Korea), Hiroyuki Sanada (Japan), Cecilia Cheung (Hong Kong), Nicholas Tse (Hong Kong), Liu Ye (China) and Chen Hong (China, the director’s wife).

Set in 3,000 years ago in the future, somewhere in Asia, the movie starts off with a beautiful introduction on what is pre-destined in the past before we move right into the plot -20 years later. The story is basically a love triangle between the great General Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada), the beautiful princess Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung), the fastest slave Kunlun (Jang Dong Dun) and the witty Duke of the North, Wuhuan (Nic Tse). It all happen after the Goddess of Destiny grants a little girl her wish to be the most beautiful princess on condition that she would never experience true love. That makes her an object of affection and intrigue among the suitors, the Duke, Slave and General.

There are some parts in the story which are not convincing enough and seems out of point. For example, the love triangle between among them are unclear and lack of chemistry. It will be better if there is more character development and more in-depth, story-telling. It can be one heck of a fantasy epic, if there were a stronger plot and a wider world of fantasy (places, clans, races) -just like Middle Earth (Lord Of The Rings). Overall, the acting bits are fairly good, better ones came from Hiroyuki Sanada’s performances, Jang Dong Gun’s emotional scenes and Nicholas Tse’s expression as the wacky villain. Not to forget, Liu Ye as Snow Wolf, a small character/role in the movie but an interesting one!

Not withstanding the weak plot, The Promise still triumph as a beautiful-looking flick – the visuals are stunning, eye-catching and colorful at times, the cinematography is top notch, thanks to Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and the promising use of special effects which is inevitable in a fantasy movie. Most notables ones are the beautiful scenery, landscapes, backdrops, crystal clear lakes, cherry blossoms and the large-scale Imperial City, all thanks to present day computer wizardry. Action scenes are well choreographed but somewhat short. Costume designs are fabulous and detailed and so are the eye-catching sets. All these, blended with the beautiful musical score, The Promise seems to be a “timeless” epic fantasy.

The Promise may not live up the expectations to many but is still fairly good. I’ll suggest you to watch the film and judge it yourself.

“Once you have accepted your destiny, nothing can alter it unless rivers flow uphill, time runs backwards, and the dead come back to life”
Plot : 2.5/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 3/5
Overall : 3/5

Notable Scenes
- the bull chasing / running scenes
- the war scenes
- Kunlun back into time, discover his origin
- Qingcheng fly as a kite
- the cinematography, visual and costumes
- the final judgment day

Buy this movie at YesAsia – The Promise

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