Overview: The Grandmaster is a martial arts biopic about the legendary Ip Man. Sil-Metropole Organisation/Bona Film Group; Rated PG-13; 130 Minutes (Chinese cut); 108 Minutes (US cut).
*This review is for the Chinese cut. I watched both versions and find the Chinese cut to be preferable. Each version has unique scenes, and the scenes in each version are not arranged identically. The US cut also features more title cards between some scenes which clearly state some points on which viewers may not be clear.
Strengths: The Grandmaster features dazzling slow motion effects and the stunning and romantic cinematography for which director Wong Kar-Wai is known. The film’s every image carries emotion which establishes a resonating feel consistent in every scene. Tony Leung is magnificent in his portrayal of Ip Man and Zhang Ziyi is as equally great as the fictional Gong Er.
Weaknesses: The Grandmaster’s structure breaks the narrative in a manner which may be hard to follow even for attentive viewers. The film doesn’t aim to tell the story of Ip Man with plot points, but rather with emotive expression framed around several major fight scenes. The illustration of the characters is not explicit, and as a viewer, one may find it difficult to construct a solid empathy or understanding.
Best Scene: The opening fight scene. Ip Man is fighting a large group of men in a downpour with slow motion and close-ups. This is one of the most visually appealing scenes I’ve ever seen in film. Wong Kar-Wai re-shot this scene after it was originally completed just so Tony Leung could wear a hat. The scene clearly took a lot of time and work to create, and the fact he re-shot it just for a hat seems excessive. The hat makes a huge difference though, and after viewers see it, we can see why he went to that great length to make it perfect.
Watch This Movie if You Like: Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon, Bruce Lee, John Woo
Grade: A –