Before the unification of China by the Qin dynasty, smaller states and warloads engaged in frequent battles. States of Liang and Wei are on war and in the battle ground there are only two alive. A middle aged soldier (Liang), just because he pretended to be dead and a young general (Wei) who is wounded. The soldier, who actually loves nature and farming, is on the field only because its compulsory to serve the military. He is aware about a reward by his king, by which, if he captures a Wei general he can have some land for farming and can evade the military service. He makes the young general his captive and sets out on a journey to his home land. He always sings a song which is all about being back in home and doing some farming. There are some others, another young prince and his warrior teacher assisted by many soldiers, who are also searching for the general. The general is also aware that there was something going on behind his back, leading to his present state. There are also other tribal groups and warlords on the road making their journey difficult. Our poor soldier and general are from two ends of the world but they reluctantly have to form a team. But through the hardships there is a strong, out of the world friendship between these two men, one a farmer who loves everything about nature, and the other a very young soldier, whom we later find out is a Prince, who dreams about a unified China devoid of any battles. The movie take us through their journey, facing many obstacles, until they finally reach Liang.
I am really not sure if I must complete the story. Not because there are lot of surprises but it would be nice to watch this movie without knowing its end (if ever anybody feels like watching after reading this), I found the end really touching and beautiful.
The story is by Jackie Chan himself, who wanted to do this movie long back and he had thought about playing the role of the young general then. 20 years have past and his age now suits the character of the soldier and he have done it so well. In the 80's when video cassettes of Jackie Chan movies were big hit in India, I watched almost all of his movies. Those were not techinically brilliant or aesthetically beautiful or great movies. But they had lot of fun and exciting action, the only action hero who did most of his stunts by himself. Once Jackie Chan went into Hollywood, such movies were not there anymore and it has been quite long, more than a decade may be, since I found our Old Jackie Chan. He is here again at his witty best and also does some of his trademark fast action bits. But he is not a super hero at all. He is a simple farmer, who manages to be alive just because he had some gadgets with him to make him look dead. He loves birds and trees and sings simple songs and is always funny. He does not understand the complicated reasons for states to war among themselves. Jackie Chan is excellent as this Soldier. I cant remember any other movie in which he had to play such a deep and warm character.
The movie is brilliantly shot and edited. It can embarrass any Hollywood flicks in all the technical departments. It is not a war movie, nor is it a comedy or drama. For me it was more like the story of two men on a journey discovering each other.
I know many Indians who consider everything from Hollywood as great. Some consider only the art house movies from East are good and the popular ones are ignorable. I wish they will watch this movie and understand Asia is up there with Hollywood in the techinical aspects. There are so many beautiful frames and scenes in this movie, backed up with some excellent background scores and sound recordings.
Just like ' Internal Affairs' was remade into a world famous movie 'The Departed' (I know so many Hollywood fans who still do not know about this adaptation), I hope once Da Bing Xiao Jiang will be remade in the west. At least then some more people will realise that there are excellent movies from the East too.
I understood, even for Jackie Chan who is like an institution, he had to wait 20 long years to make a movie from his heart. But Jackie Chan must be proud about this movie, a gem.