Zhang Yimou once again demonstrates his command of operatic drama in this spare but sumptuous tale of Tang Dynasty romance. Unfolding his color-drenched palette, Zhang unveils layer after layer of romantic intrigue complicated by the larger struggle between a Robin Hood band of rebels, House of Flying Daggers, and the corrupt Tang goverment. Gorgeous Japanese-Taiwanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro as Tang officer Jin, must gain the trust of Mei, the beautiful blind daughter of Daggers' assassinated chief. Jin helps Mei escape prison in hopes she'll lead him, and the Tang regional constable, to the new leader of the Daggers. The plan is to assassinate the new leader and bring the House of Daggers down for good.
However, enroute to the Daggers' northern hideout, Jin falls in love with Mei. The adventures and plot twists that ensue rival Shakespeare with its fascinatingly absurd complexity. From situation to situation, the stakes are raised, one is never quite sure what the next scene will hold. On plot alone, this operatic romance conjures La Traviata, is as satisfying and tragic as Verdi. Surely the Italians have nothing on the Chinese when it comes to wrenching melodrama.
But beyond story, Zhang Yimou imbues his storytelling with exotic color, with bamboo forests, with soldiers from a time who used more wit than technology to fight and vanquish foe. Forget the laser -- flying daggers, arrows, and sharpened bamboo shafts are all you need in this ancient China fantasy.