IMDB: [NR] With SHADOW, director Zhang Yimou (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.
Rating:  💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚🖤
Prepare yourself for one of the most jaw dropping, visually stunning films limited to mixed black and white with splashes of red. Seriously, you could fill a museum with still shots from this film. And the purposeful fight scenes take full advantage of movement in all its beauty.
What I Loved:
This is a movie that you watch because it’s stunning. The music is cutting and slow right when it needs to be. The dialogue is meaningful, and never wasted. They constantly use water to show movement, both flowing and halting with speed and slow motion.
Unlike an entirely black and white film, keeping this in color while nearly making everything shades of grays allows for a fascinating dichotomy. When color shows up, it’s meaningful. Yet, the colors are not cartoonish and are still limited, used only when needed.
There’s beautiful incorporation of sheer, patterned screens, which allows for layers. There’s constant play of opacity and transparency. Plus, using screens between the audience and the actors and lighting allows for shadows to appear for the viewer where there otherwise wouldn’t be any.
Every fabric, costume, set, weapon, floor is meticulously designed. There were moments where the weapons and fabrics made me catch my breath. I would love to know the techniques behind how some of them were created, because they feel otherworldly.
What I Didn’t Love:
Hero is one of my top movies in terms of beautiful storytelling and design. While Shadow has incredible design, I found the story slightly lacking as it’s fairly linear and classic. I wasn’t disappointed by it. But I felt it could have been just slightly more full to really add even more to the visuals.
“You’ve kept me caged in secret.”