Duration: 99 minutes
Hero is one of the most visually breathtaking films on Netflix now. Each scene is a carefully constructed aesthetic marvel. It combines this visual refinement with complex martial art sequences and a deep, philosophical examination of nationhood and unity in ancient China. Grand without being grandiose, it is one of my top ten favourite films of all time.
The 2002 epic is based on the story of the would-be assassin Jing Ke who tried to murder the ruler of Qin during the Warring States period in in 227 BC.
Jet Li stars as a lone warrior known as “Nameless” who is sent to meet with the king of Qin after he kills three assassins who are opposed to the king’s plan to unify the seven separate kingdoms of China under one sovereign. Each has made previous attempts on the monarch’s life.
The three assassins Nameless claims to have defeated are the most feared in the whole land. The King of Qin instructs Nameless to tell him exactly how he was able to beat them.
The film is structured around Nameless’s recollection of events and his retelling of how he battled and overcame the three great fighters Long Sky, Flying Snow and Broken Sword.
But all is not as it seems. Though, Nameless weaves a convincing tale, the king is sceptical and offers his own interpretation of what happened. At this point, Hero uses a clever visual method to juxtapose the two narratives: each version is filmed using a specific colour scheme. Thematically, this coheres with the contrasting political concepts of difference and oneness that the film explores.
Whilst Hero delves into the motivations and opposing beliefs of the King of Qin and his enemies, it does not offer a simple answer or a happy resolution to these conflicts. Which is the most truthful way of showing how some ideas survive the ages and others do not.