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The Assassin(刺客聶隱娘)

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Taiwan, China, Hong Kong · 2015
1h 45m
Director Hou Hsiao-hsien
Starring Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Nikki Hsieh, Sheu Fang-Yi
Genre Action, Drama, History

A female assassin during the Tang Dynasty begins to question her loyalties when she is tasked with killing a target she was previously engaged to.

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What are critics saying?


Screen International by Allan Hunter

This is not a venture into wire-work and acrobatics but a contemplative, often ravishing-looking, immersion in the complex politics, power struggles and personalities of the Tang Dynasty as seen through the moral dilemmas facing an enigmatic trained assassin.


The Hollywood Reporter by Deborah Young

Its bursts of lightning-fast swordplay interrupt long, still stretches of misty moonlit landscapes and follow a pure literary style more than current genre expectations.


Hitfix by Gregory Ellwood

Hou and cinematographer Ping Bin Lee (“Renoir”) produce some stunning images on location (one conversation takes place as a fog beautifully emits from the bottom of a valley), but it’s hard to find a thematic connection between the directing style Hou has chosen and the story.


Slant Magazine by Jesse Cataldo

The film carves out a rich emotional sphere concomitant to its stunning production design, finding delicate poetry in the dispassionate pursuit of revenge.


The Playlist by Jessica Kiang

It isn't really about the people as much as about the pictures, and for once that does not seem to be a trade off that compromises the power of the resulting film at all.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

Like the Barry Lyndon of martial arts movies, every shot has been composed, lit and executed with such care and attention by Hou and his cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing that The Assassin is totally absorbing in its spectacle, from the meticulous details of the interiors to the astonishing, breathtaking locations, from forests and waterfalls, to mountainsides and in one unforgettable moment cliff tops.


Variety by Justin Chang

A mesmerizing slow burn of a martial-arts movie that boldly merges stasis and kinesis, turns momentum into abstraction, and achieves breathtaking new heights of compositional elegance: Shot for shot, it’s perhaps the most ravishingly beautiful film Hou has ever made, and certainly one of his most deeply transporting.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

The movie is a distillation of the assassin’s life of watchfulness, survival and fear. At other times, it has a dreamlike quality: a floating hallucination. The Assassin baffles, but more often it quietly captivates and astonishes.


The Telegraph by Robbie Collin

Silk curtains flutter and fall, candles glow, fires crackle softly in the grate. Every scene, every shot, has been composed with total, Kubrickian precision, and calibrated for maximum, breath-quickening impact.

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