Great Wall


With Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau

Written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Mirko, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

Directed by Zhang Yimou

Set during the Song dynasty (960 - 1279), the characters of William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are mercenaries from the west, battle scarred experts searching the east for the mythical black powder (which will aide them greatly in their rogue activities). But they find themselves drawn into a mammoth battle unlike any they (or anyone else on earth) ever encountered. The Great Wall Of China was in fact built to keep a deadly enemy at bay - a horde of vicious unstoppable monsters attacking every 60 years (motivations unfolding as the battles and dangers increase) - and they happen to get stuck in the middle of this on the day the monsters attack(!).
But the army guarding the wall (known as The Nameless Order) has been preparing for decades.

Having been involved with some shady dealings around the world, naturally William grows a conscience (against Tovar's wishes) and feels compelled to do the right thing and help the forces of the Order to stop these beasts (also greatly motivated by Jing Tian's attractive but tough commanding character). The force faces the enemy with innovative regiments, weapons and (stylish) bloody execution.

Original story ideas were contributed by World War Z writer Max Brooks (son of comedy legend Mel) and Last Samurai director Edward Zwick, the imaginative tale woven around the actual purpose of this 21,000 km wall resulting in some fantastic design to bring it to life, from costumes to sets (real and computer generated), making this a little more than just a straight forward action film.

Great Wall

In addition to his richly textured films like Raise The Red Lantern, director Zhang Yimou's wushu (martial arts) movies like Hero and House Of Flying Daggers almost always reflect a ceremonial Chinese historic period steeped in tradition, but is further elevated by always combining the lyrical with the visceral, virtually turning them into action art films, packed with drama. That same ethic is applied here, but with an American action hero in the lead and monsters as the antagonists.
(If you've never seen any of Zhang Yimou's movies, you're likely to remember the stunning opening and closing ceremonies he directed for the Beijing Olympics).
This monumental project takes Yimou's skills to a new level with the epic scope enhanced by liberal CGI inclusion (in many ways both its triumph and failure), his vision brought to life with a sizable budget.

On the whole The Great Wall is a visual spectacle with intense action and vicious monsters, even more effective if watched in 3D Imax. If you want anything more from it though (besides a few well-worn logical morality lessons and light humour amoung the madness), then this is not your first choice.

Widely touted as Zhang Yimou's first English speaking film and the biggest movie shot entirely in China, it is spearheading a new era of this country entering the big league, which has always traditionally (and historically) been held by Hollywood.
In order for this movie to make its money back (and then some), a star appealing to a western audience to ensure positive box office was essential, and Damon's broad appeal was a good casting choice (as opposed to the view that his inclusion was narratively driven to reflect the "white saviour" element, kind of like co-writer Edward Zwick's Last Samura that starred Tom Cruise?).

PS. Contentious issues like bullfighting and whaling get hinted at in some of the scene scenarios which I'm sure some will pick up on and expect Damon to have spoken out about (but, if seen in the context of the time period…).

3 / B
- Paul Blom

0 1 2 3 4 5 6
- A
- B - C

never let a review decide for you, but for those who need a rating, see the Flamedrop scale below
6 - Volcanic
5 - Blistering
4 - Hot
3 - Smolder
2 - Room Temperature
1 - Fizzled
0 - Extinguished

A: Multi-Viewing Potential

B: Could Enjoy A 2nd Look

C: Once Should Suffice

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