We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"The Promise" is pretty much a mess of a movie; the acting is overwrought, the plot is too tangled to play like anything but a plot, and although I know you can create terrific special effects at home in the basement on your computer, the CGI work in this movie looks like it was done with a dial-up connection. What a disappointment from Chen Kaige, who has made great movies ("Farewell, My Concubine") and no doubt will make them again.
The plot involves a touch of the crucial romantic misunderstanding in "Vertigo." Princess Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung) thinks she is in love with the great Gen. Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada), who has saved her life after she offended the King. But actually she is in love with the slave Kunlun (Dong-Gun Jang), who is impersonating the general. Kunlun has been assigned to protect the king from an outlander assassin named Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse) and another assassin named Snow Wolf (Liu Ye). This is all going to be on the final.
Qingcheng's love for the general (or Kunlun) is doomed whether or not she discovers that the former slave is impersonating his master. That is because in the early scenes of the movie, we saw Qingcheng as a child, being told by the Goddess Manshen (Hong Chen) that although she will have beauty and power and be a princess, she will lose every man she ever loves. This has possibilities. Since she loves Kunlun (thinking he is the general), what would happen if Kunlun were lost as per the prophecy, and she ended up with the real general? Would she then think she loved him and live happily ever after, not realizing he is not really the man she loves? Would her mistake grant him immunity? At some point I wanted James Stewart to appear and herd everybody up into a bell tower.
One of Kunlun's gifts is the ability to run really, really fast. I'm thinking of The Flash here. The problem with attaining that velocity is that Kunlun obviously must abandon the world of gravity and physical reality, and become a computer-generated graphic, and you know, it's a funny thing, CGI running may be faster than real running but it never seems like anybody is really working at it. We're watching an effect instead of an achievement.