There is no disputing The Assassin is an exceptionally beautiful film, particularly if you have the patience for long, still scenes shot through diaphanous mesh curtains and lit by flickering candles. As is to be expected from a period piece set in 9th century China, the costumes are particularly lovely. And the trailer promises some impressive martial arts.
Even the plot bodes well initially. A young woman who was kidnapped as a child and trained as an assassin is sent home under orders to kill the man she loves. Will she obey or turn her back on her guild?
But the fight scenes (many of which are shot obliquely, perhaps because the director apparently cast non-fighters) look and are sound-tracked just like Crouching Tiger and Hero – a worthy template, granted, only without the wow factor of seeing those films’ incredible wire-work for the first time. While one should commend any filmmaker who eschews a fast-paced plot for a quiet character drama, it’s still important they keep their audience up-to-speed with what’s going on. Unfortunately, The Assassin fails to keep your interest (whether due to languid delivery or incomprehensibility) and this means that even the modest running time feels too long.