Saving General Yang Blu-ray Review
One of the best things about CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON’s widespread western success was that it introduced a new generation to the films and the mythology of the far east. This brought on a wave of films, many of which seemed to be Crouching-Tiger-clones rather than breaking new ground. But to the devoted followers who were watching martial arts movies long before the success of Ang Lee’s epic, Crouching Tiger and the subsequent glut of films were less than impressive. Still, I’m personally glad for its success if only because once in a great while I get to watch a movie like SAVING GENERAL YANG, a recent Blu-ray release from director Ronny Yu (FEARLESS).
In addition to simply enjoying demonstrations of martial artistry, I have always found something romantic in period pieces, specifically those set in medieval times and or during the great dynasties of the far east. As such I was pretty excited about getting a new film set during the early Northern Song dynasty, especially one focused on one of the most famous stories of the era. SAVING GENERAL YANG is outwardly a story about warriors facing insurmountable odds in a great battle (think 300 in ancient China). But while the basics of the story may feel like something you’ve heard a hundred times, SAVING GENERAL YANG is a masterwork. (It’s a shame the Blu-ray features almost no special features, otherwise this would be a lock.)
A great warrior in the Song Empire, General Yang has a large family (7 sons with great martial prowess). Yang has been a great asset to the Emperor, currying favor through his prowess in both the strategy and execution of epic battles. But, as is often the downfall of great men (in films at least), Yang cannot control his impetuous sons. So when sixth son kills the selected suitor for the Emperor’s daughter (they are in love) Yang is forced to take to the front lines while a family nemesis commands his army. Realizing this will likely result in the death of the general, the mother orders her sons to take their house guard and save their father.
What is incredible about SAVING GENERAL YANG is not the story, which sounds like a few clichés rolled into an ancient eastern atmosphere. It’s the way in which the story is told, with sparse but intensely delivered dialogue and nuanced performances from actors most of us have never seen on the silver screen before. Any movie prominently featuring subtitles can be difficult for many to follow but SAVING GENERAL YANG belongs in the short-list of films that are so immersive you completely forget that you’re reading. The cinematography and fight choreography play together like a beautiful ballet with every moment pushing forward the action and raising the stakes for this family who want desperately to save their father.
The action doesn’t disappoint either with tense and original battle sequences presented throughout the film, each one more desperate than the last. This type of film isn’t for everyone but if you’re reading this you are probably at least somewhat interested in the genre. SAVING GENERAL YANG doesn’t necessarily break a lot of new ground but it DOES deliver an excellent legend from China’s past. And what makes it even more fun to watch is the care with which Ronny Yu penned this love letter. If you like movies like this you should definitely check this one out.
SAVING GENERAL YANG BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) SAVING GENERAL YANG features a wonderfully immersive video presentation, taking you inside the action and transporting the audience to the time-period of the story.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio track for SAVING GENERAL YANG is equally impressive with nice sound mixing and a great delivery.
Making Of (08:58) Not a traditional making of feature, SAVING GENERAL YANG features several montages of images from the film with occasional interview footage with the director. More interesting for the strange way it is put together than actually good, there are at least a few behind the scenes shots worth checking out.
Interviews with Director and Cast (01:34:12) There are interviews with most of the cast and Yu. You can select the one you want from the menu or just pick the first and watch them all in order. This is actually an impressive set of interviews but they aren’t nearly as interesting as SAVING GENERAL YANG and you’ll likely get bored.
SAVING GENERAL YANG also features the Theatrical Trailer (02:22).