Red Cliff – U.S. Theatrical Version (Blu-ray Review)

Red Cliff (Blu-ray Review)John Woo has returned to his roots, so to speak.  It’s been almost 20 years since he’s taken on a project of Chinese origin, whether it being a gangster, war, or period piece.  This was obviously a passion project, and when you have total control and a nice sized budget, the sky is the limit.  John Woo Executive produced, co-wrote the screenplay, and directed the film.  It’s been a 3-year journey to this moment.

The Film 

Red Cliff is set in 208 A.D., which signaled the end of the Han Dynasty.  Prime Minister turned General Cao Cao gets permission from the emperor to wage battle against two warlords who stand in his way.   Going into Red Cliff blind, was a daunting task unto itself.  It’s so multi layered and rich, that one could easily lose track of who is who, which happened to me a couple of times.  It’s not too distracting, because after the first 5 minutes I was able to tell who was good and who was bad without having to memorize their names.  This is the price one must pay when watching a film of this skilled, and it being subtitled.  Good guys vs. bad guys, and you’ll be okay.

For fans of military strategy, you will be delighted to know that some of the techniques in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” used.  Even his writings get mentioned which was a pretty cool touch, especially for those familiar with the book.

During the early scenes of brutal warfare, the major characters get introduced, almost like a video game.  It’s pretty curious.  There will be one guy who comes out and just obliterates several foes with his bare hands, thereby, letting the viewer know that he is a master in hand to hand combat.  Another guy will fly onscreen with a sword and just cut everyone into ribbons.  This happens several times during a few scenes.  It’s like watching video game fighter intros.  Pretty cool.

As with every epic of this nature, the obligatory female character must be introduced.  She’s the loyal wife of one warlord, but is loved and wanted by another.  She also has motives of her own.  Although the actress who plays the lead, is pretty convincing, I wasn’t bored or letdown by the usual mechanics of melodrama.  It’s minimal, and she can actually act.

In reviewing Red Cliff, I have to do it with a grain of salt.  I’m aware of the almost twice as long running time of the international cut, which is about 4 hours long.  A fair comparison, but just as an analogy, would be the “Lord of the Rings” films.  There may be some extra exposition in the international cut, along with some other plot points.  Action?  I don’t know, because I can’t verify it’s content.  I can assure readers that this edition of Red Cliff was extremely satisfying, and people out there will prefer this cut to the much longer cut.  It always seems to happen that way.

When I saw the trailers for Red Cliff, they really played up the “fantasy” element even though the film is grounded in reality.  This is neither bad nor distracting.  There’s very minimal wirework involved, and whatever unbelievable acts of violence occur is due to that particular character’s fighting ability.  These cats have style for days!  I think that’s what I enjoyed the most.  I enjoyed the fights, violence, warfare, production design and the characters themselves.  Everyone involved IS the character they’re playing.

Red Cliff is not a style over substance flick, it’s got equal parts of both, and I think you will enjoy it as much as I did…now where do I get me the full 4-hour version from?

Red Cliff


Red Cliff is presented in a lovely 2.35:1 aspect ratio widescreen format.  The colors are rich and have lots of pop.  In certain scenes, the image may get a bit soft, but I think it’s due to some of the CGI.  It’s not distracting by any means, but that’s pretty much why it’s not getting a perfect score when it comes to video quality.  The picture is very sharp, and I did not pick up on any artifacts, edge enhancement or dirt specs.  A very thin layer of grain does envelope the image, but that’s just the way it is.  It’s supposed to be there.  The powers that be really came through on this disc. Beautiful stuff.

Red Cliff


Holy Toledo!  The audio quality is near reference on this bad boy!  For the most part, dialogue comes through loud, crisp, and clear.  Even the hushed tones of some the characters during the quieter scenes come through crystal clear.  It’s not until the last hour of the film that we’re treated to some bombastic sensory overload.  Overload in a good way.  I’ll tell you this much, you’re subwoofer will get the workout it has so not been getting.  There were times where I thought that these wooden ships on fire were going to explode in my living room!  The AQ Gods have answered your calls!

Red Cliff

Special Features 

It’s your basic, limited, special features fare.  It does get a 3 star rating, because it’s loaded with a fascinating and comprehensive Chinese language making of featurette.

  • The Making of Red Cliff: The Long Road – This “making of” clocks in at a staggering 2 hours and 25 minutes alone!  It’s almost as long as the film.  An interesting Chinese (with English subtitles) making of that captures everything with regards to bringing the film to the big screen.  This making of is literally years in the making-one of the best I’ve seen in years.
  • A Conversation with John Woo: The Heroism and History of Red Cliff – Leo Quinones “The Film Freak” interviews John Woo.  It’s your basic one on one director’s interview, but I like Leo, he makes it a very fun and interesting interview.
  • HDNet: A Look at Red Cliff Here’s a plug for HDNET, and it’s another basic EPK for the film.
  • Storyboards – Storyboards of the film.

Red Cliff

Final Thoughts 

 In closing, I’d just like to say that Red Cliff is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the tale of “epics.”  We usually throw that word around when it comes to movies that are expensive.  Epics = Expensive.  Red Cliff has lots of different moments that some viewers will be able to identify with and be able to recognize.  It’s somewhat of a hybrid flick.  It’s Braveheart, Alexander, 300, Troy, Rob Roy, and Lord of the Rings (in terms of scale) all rolled into one.  On that alone, Red Cliff succeeds.

Pre-order the Red Cliff Blu-ray today!

Red Cliff (U.S. Theatrical Version) is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 3/23!

Red Cliff Blu-ray Cover Art


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

5 Responses to “Red Cliff – U.S. Theatrical Version (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gregg

    I’m really looking forward to this one. If it wasn’t for WSB, I would have never heard of it! Thanks for a good quality review, Gerard.

  2. Gerard Iribe

    I’m going to try and get me a copy of the International Cut. I’m real curious about the cut material. We’ll see.

    Thanks for the props Gregg!

  3. Brian White

    Yeah…I must say…my curioisty about this title is peaked by this review.

  4. Chris

    Thanks for the detailed review. I’m going to pick this one up.


    Who You Gonna Call
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    Hey Gerard and everyone,

    On behalf of Magnolia Pictures and the movie’s producers, many thanks for plugging “Red Cliff” … .. thanks also, on behalf of the distributors and producers, for not posting any pirate copies or non-trailer clips of “Red Cliff” and if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, previews, then the official trailer for “Red Cliff” is available for fans and bloggers to post/ host / share etc at http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/redcliff/ … .. for further details of on-line promotions for this movie and Magnolia releases generally, check-out http://www.magpictures.com and their official YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/MagnoliaPictures .

    Thanks again for your plug.