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The Great Wall movie review: Even Trump's wall is better

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:43 IST

This isn't Donald Trump's but Chinese director Yimou Zhang's (of House of Flying Daggers fame) Wall. It's Zhang's first English-language feature and Matt Damon's first Chinese film (in English). With a budget north of $150 million, you'd think it would be a pretty good combination. Well, think again. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to call it the worst movie of their respective careers. The movie from the get go is muddled with meandering dialogues and wasteful plotlines that don't further the movie in any way.

The Great Wall is a historical fantasy monster movie set in China with a white saviour as the lead character. Matt Damon plays William Garin, a mercenary from the West in search of gunpowder. Damon and Pedro Pascal (who plays the character of Pero Tovar) are the only two men of the mission left alive after a late night attack on them by a demon.

According to the movie's lore, mythical beasts known as Tao Tei attack China every 60 years and the great wall was built to keep these creatures out of the mainland. The Nameless Order is tasked with keeping the monsters at bay.

Damon and his comrade try to infuse scenes of being captured with humour but fail spectacularly. At one point, the second-in-command, Commander Lin Mei (Tian Jing) shouts a dialogue in English. Damon responds, "Fantastic".

The movie boasts of a multi-cultural cast and most of them don't live up to the standards they've set in their respective industries. Even Willem Dafoe just lurks around in the background, merely providing a contrasting figure to the lead two.

The love affair that isn't

The film itself sidetracks from the action far too often. While the two leads, Damon and Jing talk quite a bit (for an action movie) they never really engage in romance. You can feel the tension, you can sense Damon will be the hero he is in all his movies, and you can see the shift in emotions on Mei's face each and every time they're in the same frame together. However, it doesn't go too far beyond this.

Confused logic

As an avid cinephile, one thing that confused me was the language used in the movie. The movie shifts, quite frequently, between English and Chinese. With the timeframe of the movie being ancient, why is the English spoken this modern? On the other hand, how have the humans not developed in the 60-year intervals between attacks? If the Tao Tei attack once every 60 years, and China has survived so far, it makes no sense that they suddenly need a white saviour to come to their rescue.

In the end

The movie, on the whole, just doesn't live up to what the trailer promises - visual spectacle, minimum dialogue and maximum action. Instead, coupled with the 3D that is forced upon poor Indian viewers, the movie is an extremely dull affair. If the aim was to entertain, it has failed. However, if this was actually a Chinese ploy to undermine Donald Trump by making the very concept of a wall off-putting, this movie might just be a masterstroke.

Rating: 1.5/5

First published: 3 February 2017, 3:27 IST