starring Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang
screenplay by Li Feng, Zhang Yimou, Wang Bin
directed by Zhang Yimou
by Walter Chaw Zhang Yimou's Hero is perhaps the most ravishing, most seductively alien fantasy since a pair of 1964 releases: Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert and Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman of the Dunes. It is a telling of the oft-told (in Chinese cinema) story of how the first emperor of China, Qin (an imperious Daoming Chen), was targeted by an assassin on the eve of uniting all the warring city-states of China into a kingdom, the centre of the world that calls itself to this day the "Middle Kingdom." To bridge the prescribed physical gap between commoner and emperor, X (Jet Li) tells the story of how he vanquished three of the realm's greatest killers in the function of a low-ranking magistrate--earning proximity as a result of his service to Qin with each tall tale. The body of Hero is the stories told by X, with Qin the rapt, but skeptical audience, taking his sense of manifest purpose as aegis against any attacker.