2010 [CHINESE]

Action / Drama / History

Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN


Top cast

Bingbing Fan Photo
Bingbing Fan as Princess Zhuang
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.08 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 2 min
P/S 0 / 3
2.06 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 2 min
P/S 0 / 1

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Pandolfi7 / 10

An Orphan Becomes a Pawn in a Man's Quest for Vengeance

The premise of "Sacrifice" does not sit well with me, but then again, perhaps that was the intention. Taking place in ancient China, it tells the melodramatic story of a man who uses his adopted son as a means to seek restitution of the death of his biological son; on the basis of the movie's emotional and fatalistic ending, it's quite possible that the film was supposed to be broadly moralistic in much the same way as fairy tales or other such fables. But I have no way of knowing if this is actually the case. Truth be told, I'm just clinging to hope. If the intention was to somehow glorify or downplay the actions of the main character, if we're meant to view him as some kind of hero, then something went horribly wrong somewhere along the way. To keep my temper in check, I will go forth on the assumption that the film is indeed a cautionary tale with a moral.

Adapted from the ancient Chinese play "The Orphan of Zhao," we open, as many melodramas do, with personal and political tensions that ultimately lead to tragedy. We meet General Tu Angu (Wang Xueqi),a treacherous man who plots to end the reign of the powerful Zhao clan. He successfully poisons the duke (Peng Bo),frames the chancellor (Bao Guo'an) and the chancellor's son (Vincent Zhao) for it, and ultimately oversees the elimination of all 300 members of the clan. At the same time, we meet the duke's sister, Princess Zhuang (Fan Bingbing),who has just given birth to a boy named Zhao Wu. Accepting her fate, the Princess entrusts her son to her physician, Cheng Ying (Ge You),who was supposed to give him to a friend of the Zhao family. Her instructions were simple: Her son must never know his real name, nor his past or his enemies. She wants him to live a normal life.

A complicated twist of fate inexorably alters this plan. As it turns out, Cheng Ying and his wife have a newborn son of their own, and General Tu, now aware that the Zhao baby has escaped execution, has decreed that the gates to the city be sealed and that all the newborn babies be rounded up. Long story short: Zhao Wu and baby Cheng are switched, resulting in the former being spared and the latter being slain at the hands of Tu. The Zhao family friend and Cheng Ying's wife also fell victim to Tu's wrath. Thus Cheng Ying is left to raise Zhao Wu as his own son. But he broods over his loss and swears vengeance on Tu. Essentially, his plan is to use Zhao Wu as his weapon; he will introduce him to Tu under the pretense that he's his actual son, allow Zhao Wu and Tu to grow close, and ultimately reveal to Zhao Wu that Tu murdered his family. His hope is that Zhao Wu will be so full of hate that he will kill Tu on the spot.

For many years, all goes according to plan. We see Zhao Wu grow, first into a rambunctious child (Wang Han) who Cheng Ying refuses to let out of his sight, then into a teenage warrior (Zhao Wenhao). We see the boy grow closer to Tu, who believes the orphaned Zhao is dead, and distant from Cheng Ying. We see Cheng Ying form a friendship – or, more accurately, an alliance – with Tu's former subordinate Han Jue (Huang Xiaoming),who was present when Princess Zhuang gave her son to Cheng Ying and whose face was scarred by Tu in a fit of anger. We see the younger version of Zhao Wu rebel against Cheng Ying's overprotectiveness and demand that he be allowed to go to school. Does Cheng Ying love Zhao Wu? That's difficult to say; although he does occasionally reveal some paternal instincts, it's hard to imagine how you can love someone and yet persist in using them to satisfy your own need for vengeance.

Now do you see why this film makes me so uneasy? Its plot depends almost entirely on a heartbroken man manipulating and lying to an orphaned boy out of anger. I have to believe that the purpose of this film is not to venerate Cheng Ying, but rather to speak out against his method of revenge. If that wasn't the case, if I'm interpreting the film incorrectly, then there's really no excuse for it beyond the superficial levels of narrative and technique. This is despite the fact that director/co-writer Chen Kaige has been personally vested in father/son stories since denouncing his own father, the filmmaker Chen Huai'ai, after joining the Red Guards as a teenager during the decade-long Cultural Revolution. It was a decision he would later regret deeply.

My reservations notwithstanding, I am grateful that the visual appeal of "Sacrifice" depends not on the meaningless spectacle of martial arts but on production design, art direction, costume design, and makeup. I've repeatedly admitted an innate resistance to the martial arts genre, which relies on choreography rather than plot; this movie shows restraint in that regard, reserving all scenes of stylized violence for when they're absolutely necessary. As for the plot, I appreciate that it's dramatic and character driven, although I'm unsure about how it's supposed to be interpreted. If it is in fact the didactic vengeance fable I believe it to be, then the film is a success, playing up the contrivances for maximum melodramatic effect and ultimately delivering a message intended to teach the audience a lesson.

-- Chris Pandolfi (

Reviewed by CelluloidDog9 / 10

VERY underrated Epic Tragedy

I am stunned at the paucity of excellent reviews for this art-house gem. It seems most reviewers are looking for an action film. Today, there seems to be a consensus that every Asian film needs action, every action film needs CGI. But it's 20% action, 80% drama. In reality, it ranks better than almost any action film such as anything with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Stallone, or Statham. (Schwarzenegger and Mortensen may top the list with Terminator 2 and LOTR). It's just not a true action film but is more epic like Troy, The Last Samurai (a weaker film) or Dances with Wolves. Sacrifice falls into a class of recent Asian masterpieces, just after highly acclaimed films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Twilight Samurai, 3-Iron, Spirited Away or Internal Affairs.

It is a bit confusing to navigate the film especially at the start with the flashbacks, but director Kaige Chen succeeds in creating a vision of questionable rule as the Zhao king comes across as somewhat irritating and incompetent. That sets the scene for a military coupe as General Tu Angu (Tu'An) -- played brilliantly by Xueqi Wang. A doctor named Cheng Ying (You Ge) and his wife get caught up in the confusing, political intrigue. But then, brilliant art-house films such 8 1/2 or Clockwork Orange can be more confusing. Add a cultural element, and people can get lost. But the dark human themes simplify this film.

Sometimes the simplest theme can be the most complex yet most human. For example, the highly acclaimed Ikiru (1952) or Twelve Angry Men or even The Shawshank Redemption use simple themes such as creating a legacy, changing perceptions or bias and friendship and trust. I suspect the more old world theme of revenge does not play well with people. It's not endearing like Shawshank Redemption, although it is objectively a better made film. Why? The costumes, set and cinematography of Sacrifice are almost better than any film in the past twenty years. I'm not certain why anyone fails to point out these aspects. Costumes are quite accurate but not glittery, peasants and commoners wear drab but clean clothes. The set is accurate, not overdone. The cinematography is brilliant. The minor use of animation/CGI was tastefully done as the aging doctor imagines what revenge is possible.

Revenge and loyalty are overriding themes as this film develops strongly Asian taste which perhaps some people cannot stomach. But this is not unlike living in a foreign country. The point is, to experience something radically different is powerful. Sometimes we are afraid. Someone pointed out it is a dark film, which is true, but so was The Shining or Pixote (perhaps the best Brazilian film ever). But all these films develops the characters extremely well. We get to understand Cheng Ying and Tu Angu very well and few films ever develop their characters as well, if not endearing like Forrest Gump. Emotionally, we embrace acting on a lesser scale if we empathize with the characters. In most epics, the viewer can rarely get close to the central male figures since the cool nobility of the character. For example, although Clark Gable was noble in Gone With The Wind, his character was not as endearing as Vivien's Scarlett. Or Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai) always played a strong, distant character. Tu Angu plays that distant character opposed to the vulnerable Cheng Ying (You Ge). That is what makes Twilight Samurai a brilliant film despite it not being the typical samurai film. In contrast, that film is about love of family. Yet, that theme is more engaging than revenge, loyalty and moral ambiguity as we see in Sacrifice. Yet sometimes, it is hard for the audience to interpret.

The whole concept of "Sacrifice" is old world. We hear of parents sacrificing for the young ones. But in a modern western culture, it is forgotten. Our vulnerable doctor is not just loyal to the Zhao clan, he is driven by personal loss and his loyalty is as weak as his physical and mental strength. He and his wife would have gladly wanted their son to live. But fate took a turn and they were given an unwanted situation. Family and honor are important old world values. Oaths and fidelity are feudal and keep us prisoners. Life is full of unwanted situations but releasing ourselves is how we move forward. The former general Han Jue (Xiaoming Huang) understands a bit of that as he questions Cheng Ying's idealized concept of revenge. Parenting cannot overcome free will. Cheng Ying hopes the greatest twist will be the most exacting revenge but Han Jue realizes that no plan, no matter how carefully constructed, succeeds the way we want.

The viewer knows we cannot control destiny or people, but Cheng Ying's feelings are too blind, too controlling to realize that. He sees a dark future for his enemy and the orphan of Zhao is the instrument. It is a bit autobiographical perhaps, as one reviewer suggests about father/son relationships. Hollywood films have happy endings, international films have darker endings. Most Chinese epics end in melodramatic death. It seems the film moves slowly but so are classics such as High Noon or Once Upon a Time in the West. In this case, a boy has to grow up and character development is important to this film. Therefore the pace is deliberate with the exception of the fighting scenes.

If one understands the merits of this gem, then the human experience in film begins to open up. Films are entertainment, but also a probe into deeper meaning and into our spirituality. In the end, our main characters come to realization and resolution. This film despite its apparently simple themes, is perhaps a bit too intellectual for some. It seems almost a Shakespearian or an ancient Greek tragedy in its design and appeal.

Reviewed by Mindy Zhang8 / 10

I recommend it

The story tries to teach a lessen, and the way it does it worked well and is different from other movies.

Chinese movie don't have to be composed entirely of fighting like everyone always would expect (it seems there are a few good movies coming out in China do not have excessive amount of fighting, including "let the bullet fly").

The story conveys a good amount of emotional feeling, and it's not cheesy.

The message of the story was delivered well, and kept me in suspense the whole time, the storyline was very unpredictable, a job well done.

Though there were some plot holes, and I would like to see that the character was really thinking about for somethings they have done.

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