A foreign-language film with subtitles becoming No1 at the American box-office? Impossible, you may feel, but Hero managed it. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon had opened up a new market for Western audiences, and Hero was one of many films to benefit.
The plot? A lowly official (Jet-Li) is brought before the Emperor to be rewarded for killing three martial-arts experts who had previously attempted to assassinate the ruler; Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung). The Emperor invites him to describe just how he managed to kill all three when his own army had failed. We then see in flashback the fights that took place, but the Emperor is dissatisfied with the explanation and offers his own interpretation...
This film is a visual work of art. The style is like to Crouching Tiger in that the abilities of the characters are beyond reality - they can fly through the air and walk on water - a wuxia film, but this has been taken to epic proportions - including using the Chinese Army as extras firing thousands of arrows into the sky! Colour is of particular importance here - as most of the fights are shown in flashback and are revisited to show another perspective, the characters and scenery are colour-coded and change with each version. The soundtrack too, from Tan Dun and Itzhak Perlman, is very haunting and memorable.
The director went on to direct House of Flying Daggers after this which is also a visual treat. That film seems to get more attention but out of the two, whilst I like them both, I would actually put this one first as, to me, Daggers seems to run out about two-thirds through whereas the non-linear narrative in this film keeps the interest in the story going. Try it and see.
Finally, in this edition, you can select to watch a dubbed version - instead of with subtitles if they're not your thing.