Thursday, September 5, 2013

Film Review: 1911 (2011)

1911 (Review)
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...offers an interesting story, but suffers from poor execution."

Leading the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, Huang Xing (Jackie Chan) and Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao) work together through the battlefields and the politics, respectively, to revolt against the Qing Dynasty - to unite the people under a new government and overthrow their oppressors.

The story, one that I'm not very familiar with, is unfortunately poorly told. It's an interesting story, and one that's not told very often in film, but fails to tell an actual story. I understand some of the main points of the film, but most of it is disjointed; the constant flashbacks and jumps from event to event make it hard to follow. On top of that, the significant events move by so quickly, as do the subtitles, which makes them ineffective and offer very little information. (this is a more significant issue for those that do not speak the film's language.) In fact, many of the significant events end with little closure, and with a very unfulfilling feeling.

The action sequences are great. They don't offer much new to the war genre, but they are technically well-made and entertaining; the atrocities of war are beautifully captured. I'd say much of the film is dominated by war sequences, big and small, that will leave action fans with some satisfaction. Without character development or attachment, the war is treated as a basic action sequence; without symbolism, meaning, or suspenseful buildup, I was not emotionally involved nor did it ever feel like a revolution was going on. Considering the short runtime, these war sequences could've been reduced to give more information, smoothen the story, and make the remaining war sequences effective.

The acting is great from Jackie Chan and Winston Chao; both offer great emotion, and the latter offers the charisma you'd expect from a leader. The rest of the cast is decent - nothing horrible, but definitely not spectacular. The writing is severely flawed - poorly structured and disappointingly hollow. The direction from Jackie Chan and Zhang Li is okay - again, it really isn't impressive as not much is pulled from the cast or story. The cinematography is great, the film is beautifully shot and the war sequences are bittersweet.

Overall, 1911 offers an interesting story, but suffers from poor execution. The writing is bad, the editing is sloppy, and the acting is merely decent; even the action sequences fail to impress, despite being technically great. With the little 1911 has to offer, don't expect a history lesson or a grade A action film. I recommend a rental or stream, if you're interested.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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