A generic film that dates back to 370 BC and like other period dramas of its kind tells the tale of battles fought during that time with conflicting states fighting to usurp the other’s land. Although Director Jacob Cheung Chi Leung has attempted to follow the trend set by universally applauded films such as ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘Hero’, ‘Battle of Wits’ does not fall in line with these great films. It does not adopt the opulent sets and elegant costumes used in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon nor does it replicate its flying sword fights and other action scenes.
In fact, Battle of Wits has more genuine battle scenes that are fought on the ground rather than in the air. The story set in 370 BC, is about a tiny city-state, Liang, which is threatened by the powerful Zhao Kingdom. A 20,000 men army is led against Liang by Zhao’s general Xiang Yanzhang (Ahn Sung Ki) to capture the city while the people watch helplessly as the army moves forward. As their drunken and self-centered king (Wang Zhiwen) is unable to do anything to save his kingdom, other means of help is thought of to save Liang from being conquered by Zhao.
The people seek help from the Mozi tribe, an old Chinese sect that believes in the policy of ‘Universal Love’. Mohism was a belief that preached righteousness and adopted a path of love instead of warfare. Although their teachings would not allow them to help a self-gratifying king, they send their most trusted follower Ge-Li (Andy Lau) to listen to the citizens pleas. Ge-Li is very well-trained in the philosophy of love and uses his peaceful methods to fight back Zhao’s army. He seems to know about every move that the enemy will make and tackles the situation with finesse.
He teaches the people of Liang to defend themselves and shows them how to achieve it successfully. The people grow very fond of him and so do the women cavalry chief Ye Yue (Fan Bing-Bing) and the main archer Zi Yuan (Nicky Wu). He becomes so popular among the people with his unpretentious ways and the manner in which he handles situations that even the enemy general begins to respect Ge-Li. However his growing popularity brings in jealousy, with none other than the king himself being his stark opponent. The king with the help of General Niu and the royal tutor manage to tarnish Ge-Li’s image.
It may not be as outstanding as the other period films, but A Battle of Wits conveys a deep-down message that battles and bloodshed are inhuman and only result in more bloody wars. The action at times can be very amateurishly done, but even so the characters and the way the story proceeds, makes Battle of Wits a movie worth watching.
Director: Chi Leung ‘Jacob’ Cheung
Cast: Andy Lau,Sung-kee Ahn,Zhiwen Wang,Bingbing Fan
Wins: Golden Rooster Awards,Golden Bauhinia Awards,Hong Kong Film Awards
Nominations: Asian Film Awards,Hong Kong Film Awards,Golden Horse Film Festival,Golden Rooster Awards,Golden Bauhinia Awards
Country: Japan, South Korea, China ,Hong Kong