The Great Wall is the Best Picture I’ve seen of 2017 so far. Of course it’s only February, but I must say, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was an impressive story with a different and profound plot. There’s a significant amount of humor, which will ease the pain of feeling like you’ve come to see a horror flick. I will try to review The Great Wall without giving anything away because the element of surprise is truly a surprise.
In the time of the Song dynasty during the reign of the Renzong Emperor, a few miles north of the Great Wall, a mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder are being pursued by Khitan bandits, who have already killed a lot of the men. Upon escaping, the remainder of the men seek refuge in a cave but are attacked by something unknown, leaving only William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) alive. During the attack, William slashed off part of an arm with the hand in tact, (the rest had disappeared) so the two decided to bring the arm with them as proof of the kill in hopes of identifying what it was William had slaughtered. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau).
The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of Tao Tei, who rise every 60 years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still weeks away. Suddenly, a wave of Tao Tei attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized. The Nameless Order is divided into FIVE SPECIAL UNITS: the Melee-specialist Bear Troop, the Acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the Archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the Siege Engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the Horse-mounted Deer Troop. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Peng Yong (Lu Han), an unskilled soldier from the Bear Troop and William, in turn, saves him during the attack. William and Tovar’s battle skills earn the respect of General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Commander Lin (Jing Tian), leader of the Crane Troop. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder and was also taken prisoner. Ballard has been serving as an English and Latin teacher for some time. The three foreign mercenaries discuss developing plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied in battle. Later, Strategist Wang meets William and explains the situation and further identifies the Tao Tei.
I have avoided any information about the Tao Tei or further plots as not to spoil the movie. You may think you know what coming but you don’t. The Great Wall is truly exciting. The special effects are fantastic and the story is very good. The five special units were the most colorful, structured spectacular display of an army I’ve seen. Each unit had it’s own color and it’s own function. It was magnificent to watch. Even the beating of the drums were spectacular and rhythmically spellbinding. Ego and pride are not the driven force in these armies, love and romance does not get in the way and revenge is not a motive. Plans are executed by a driven leadership who wants the best for all the people at any cost. I highly recommend The Great Wall in standard or 3D.