By Dave B.
In Shadow (2019, currently on Netflix), as three empires battle for control of a strategic city, the commander of one of the empire’s armies challenges a rival to a duel to settle once and for all who the city belongs to. This serves as the opening move in a series of complicated plans that pit the stratagems of a king and a general against the indomitable will of a lowly servant who just wants to return home.
On the surface, Shadow is a Mandarin-language political thriller crafted into a piece of visual art. Set in ancient China, the movie is filled with political intrigue, machinations, and maneuverings. But underneath the prevalent political drama that takes place, Shadow spends a significant amount of time examining the importance of identity (both how self-identification and how one is perceived by society) can influence the lives of individuals, groups, and even empires. Having these themes play out in an historical martial arts “epic” is fascinating. Further, Shadow is always stylish, with a motif that consists entirely of a black, white, and gray color scheme that is ever-present.
But while Shadow is stylish, it isn’t always spectacular. In particular, the movie’s fight choreography is decidedly…understated, bordering on unimpressive. The movie’s story, acting, and overall visual execution are engaging enough that this shouldn’t be a major detriment for most viewers, but those expecting a lot of heart-pounding, gravity-defying action may be a bit disappointed. Further, Western audiences may find Shadow’s ending to be a bit more predictable than it is likely intended to be, especially if they are at all familiar with Shakespearean tragedies.
Overall, I like Shadow. A lot. Despite it’s 115 minute runtime, at no point did I get bored or restless. And although I thought that a movie with a nearly monochrome color palette would be boring to look at, nothing could be further from the truth in this case. Shadow is a visual treat and despite some minor “flaws”, I highly recommend it, particularly for fans of movies that have complex political intrigue and strong emotional content. Watch Shadow. You’ll like it.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.