Chen Kaige’s Sacrifice is an epic period piece set in ancient China, that manages to weave an elaborate revenge tale with gorgeous production design, superb cinematography and a cast that makes the film absolutely spellbinding. Tu’an Gu (Wang Xue Qi) is a general in the army of Zhou, that gets tired of being sidestepped by the Chancellor. He decides to plan a coup d’etat and wipe out the entire Zhou family in order to ascend to power, but fails to eliminate one person, the newborn son of Princess Zhuang (Fan Bing Bing). The local doctor, Cheng Ying (Ge You) manages to get the newborn baby out of the Zhou residence after delivering him and decides to raise the boy as own son, under Tu’an Gu’s nose. Chen Ying decides to keep the boy and raise him, until he’s old enough to take revenge against the man that wiped out his entire clan. Based off of an ancient play titled The Orphan of Zhao, written in the 13th Century, the film shows its roots in drama and excels in presenting a well crafted revenge tale that has lasted centuries for a good reason.
All of the major players in Sacrifice are just so well casted, from Ge You’s portrayal of the gentle doctor, to Wang Xue Qi’s portrayal of the evil general showcase how all great these actors are under Kaige’s guidance. While her portrayal is very short, Fan Bing Bing manages to capture beauty and an immense sadness within her role as Princess Zhuang. While I’d seen a few of these performers before, it was my first introduction to a few of these actors’ work, along with Kaige’s as well. While I’d been wanting to see The Promise, Farewell My Concubine and a few of his other works, I’ve embarrassingly have not, but after seeing this, I must surely make it a prerogative.
From a technical standpoint, Sacrifice is exceptionally executed, with some great looking set pieces, intricate costume design and fantastic cinematography. Whether it be a portion of the village or the interior of a grand hall, all of the set pieces look amazing and solidify the film’s portrayal of ancient China. The costumes look really elaborate and don’t come off as cheap, but look authentic enough be genuine articles from the era. Even though its the first time cinematographer Yang Shu has worked Chen Kaige, you wouldn’t have guessed it from the imagery and look of the film. I truly felt as though I had been a witness to a time and a tale long forgotten by history while watching this film, that I’m glad to have seen and can’t wait to behold it once more. Highly Recommended!