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TIFF Review: Shadow

A military commander secretly mentors a doppelganger with the help of his wife in an attempt to gain the throne for himself in ancient China.

Essentially, the story is one continuous powerplay by competing forces attempting to conquer another kingdom and to either claim or remain on the throne.  Zhang Yimou attempts to channel his idol Akira Kurosawa in conveying a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions but with rather mixed results.  No one can fault the filmmaker for his ability to produce visually stunning imagery which are enhanced by the decision to forgo saturated colours for a pallet that outside of the skin tones and blood is monochromatic.

The trouble is that the theatrical style never lets the audience forget that they are watching a movie.  Cool moments are scattered throughout such as the unconventional use of umbrellas, a twist on the infamous scene from Seven, and an act of retribution provided by a gifted dagger.  There is plenty of violence that is so over the top at times that it is hard to decide whether to wince or laugh.  Zhang Yimou is simply letting loose in a convoluted plot where anything is fair game; unfortunately, the overt emphasis on style sabotages the entertainment value in what is a way off target production by a master filmmaker.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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