The Great Wall

Year: 2017
Director: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jang, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau
Written by Nazeer Vawda

I really didn’t want to watch this film. I didn’t care about Matt Damon, because why should I? He’s not playing a Chinese character. If you want to use the white saviour argument you can, but why? Damon isn’t the sole saviour, he just helps.  I didn’t want to see this film because it looked bad. It looked like a generic, dull sci-fi action film, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The film definitely wasn’t great, but it was an absolute blast. It sometimes is the standard generic actioner, especially at the end, but the rest of the action was a lot of fun. While the rest are all fun, the first set piece on the wall is the one that I want talk about, because, oh my god, it is incredible. I haven’t had that much fun in a cinema in a long time. Along with the rest of the cinema I was exclaiming when things happened and moving around my seat like you sometimes do when playing a racing game. I think the fact the film did that makes it worth it alone. The whole film manages to engage you due to its incredible colour scheme, which really shows in some of the action scenes. You have each type of fighter in different colours, with lots of colourful weapons, and it just makes the film so much fun, which is all the film wants to be.

From his last films, I’ve learnt that Yimou Zhang is a great action director. He merges great cinematography and fantastic choreography, and turns each action sequence into a beautiful sequence of pushes and pulls, almost like a dance. As much as I wished this would be as well done as ‘Hero’, it wasn’t, but he still managed to create something really good, with some incredible action sequences, which is often not the case with action films like this.  

The performances too, while not always consistent, are still fun. Damon is just doing what he’s told, and for some unknown reason changing his accent any chance he gets. Pedro Pascal, was good in his role, however Willem Dafoe is totally wasted and useless here, he doesn’t really do much at all. The real standout here is Tain Jing who teals the film as Lin Mae. She plays her role perfectly, and manages to outdo everyone else in the film. I’m incredibly grateful that the film let her be the true lead.

And now to confront the controversy. This film isn’t racist, nor is it whitewashing. Matt Damon isn’t playing a Chinese character. He isn’t taking a role away from a Chinese actor, what he does is act as the wests window into the film. Sure this wasn’t necessary, but I understand why they did it here. Matt Damon doesn’t play the white saviour, he is mostly a bystander and helper. As I just mentioned, Tian Jing plays the real hero of the story, the film is about her character, what she does, and how she can save the day. All Damon does is observe. This film is about how we can work together, how everything doesn’t need to be entirely one race.

I honestly had an absolute blast with this film, at its highest points its some of the most fun I’ve had in a cinema, and at its lowest its just good, I think that’s pretty good. I really hope that this film gains a good following once it gets a home release like ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ did, it really deserves it, and while it wasn’t perfect, more films should begin to follow in the footsteps of this films style.

Nazeer’s rating: 7 out of 10
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