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The Last Supper - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Wang de Shengyan

China 2012


Lu Chuan

Liu Ye
Daniel Wu
Chang Chen
Qin Lan
Li Qi
Yuan Nie
Sha Yi
Qi Dao

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The Last Supper

Story: Liu Bang (Liu Ye) is the emperor of China and doesn't have much time left to live. He is also haunted by nightmares that center around his mortal enemies Lord Yu (Daniel Wu) and General Xin (Chang Chen). In fact the three were once good friends. Back then Liu asked Lord Yu, who was a living legend on the battlefield, to give him an army to recapture his home village from enemy troops and also save his wife (Qin Lan). Yu grants him his wish and after that the two fight side by side in order to bring down the Qin Empire. Xin also serves in Yu's army. But after Liu's victory over the Qin Empire he moves into the palace himself, without waiting for Yu as was actually pre-decided. At the palace Liu finds out that he has far greater ambitions than he was aware of. Why should he hand over the throne to Yu if he could be the emperor himself? But he is soon brought back down to earth when Yu is about to attack the palace with a giant army. Liu is desperately trying to convince Yu that all of this was a mere misunderstanding. But the banquet Yu invites him to is becoming a nightmare for Yu...

Review: When Lu Chuan is making a period movie you can expect an accurately recherched story and a focus on psychological aspects. And that's what you get with "The Last Supper". Apart from that the movie is also intoxicating because of its beautiful pictures and a dark, depressing mood. However, Lu irritates with a confusingly told story, which will be quite hard to follow for those who aren't familiar with the political background in China at that time. Furthermore, the actors may be able to deliver sophisticated performances, but their characters' personalities remain extremely cold, making you miss a certain emotional involvement. In the end, this makes the picture very realistic but also unusually demanding.

The Last Supper - Film Screenshot 11

The movie's historical roots are located between the Qin dynasty, in which China was unified, and the following Han dynasty. The three protagonists in the movie are important historical personalities that we accompany through the most crucial stations of their lives, whereas there is a clear focus on Liu Bang - which is self-evident since he is the one who became emperor of China after all. Liu Ye ("Police Story 2013") delivers a decent performance, especially during his character's younger years when the ambivalence of his personality is often becoming apparent. Liu Bang is full of ambitions, at times shows mercy, but is also a coward and particularly in his later years shows how cruel he can be as well. His actions as the emperor are often the result of fear, which has its origin in a trauma.

The Last Supper - Film Screenshot 12

This trauma continues to torment him in the shape of a dream which revolves around a banquet the title already hints at. This banquet displays the movie's special atmosphere in a compressed manner. Oppressive pictures, a menacing, but also hypnotic sword dance, a blade could strike from the shadows at any time and a dismal soundtrack underlines the events. Lu Chuan ("City of Life and Death", "Kekexili: Mountain Patrol") composes his pictures with care. The sets and costumes are impressive, but are always serving the story. Since the visual element is never forcing itself into the foreground, but at all times the story's substance remains in the focus, Lu Chuan claims his own ground with his period movie and thus the film can't really be compared to the works of Lu's colleagues which in itself is a fine feat.

There are even some CGI scenes to be seen, but not during some battle scenes as you might expect. Rather, CGI is used when inner workings need to be conveyed. By the way, you shouldn't expect any action here. There may be some short battle scenes, which actually underlines the movie's epic scale in a way, but they work on the sort of level that push the story foward instead of wanting to excite the audience with unnecessary battle carnage. Lu is certainly walking his own path and puts emphasis on the strategial concepts, political events and interpersonal relationships in his story. Unfortunately, latter one can never really be considered as convincing as would have been necessary to give the emotional scenes impact, as the individuals almost never show their true faces. This also demands some guesswork concerning their attitude.

The Last Supper - Film Screenshot 13

Still, it's more than anything else the fact that the characters' motives aren't transparent that consitutes the at times high suspense level of this story full of intrigues. During the movie's last third the plot more and more centers around the intrigues at the royal court. The middle part on the other hand consists of flashbacks. Here Daniel Wu ("That Demon Within", "Overheard 2") shines the most, since he gives his character a certain chivalry and is also responsible for the only working dramatic scene. However, Chang Chen ("The Grandmaster") almost serves no purpose - that is until the showdown. Its historic accuracy makes "The Last Supper" an recommendable period flick, but the unnecessarily confusing narrational aspects and the emotional detachment also make this picture a lengthy affair.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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