If you thought revolutions were only for the French or for rebels in galaxies far away, then I’m here to tell you that all you had to do was look to the East.
At first glance 1911 Revolution does not seem like the type of movie Jackie Chan would have in his repertoire. This film is a far cry from his more recent films such as Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), The Karate Kid (2010), and The Spy Next Door (2010). The film is certainly leaps and bounds away from many of his roles centered in martial art laden classics such as Drunken Master (1978) and Rumble in the Bronx (1995). Instead, what Jackie Chan presents is a sensational historical epic.
Clocking in at roughly 99 minutes, the scope of 1911 Revolution is huge. Not many movies can cover the span of an entire revolution without you wishing for the end to come sooner. The film spends the right amount of time on the fronts of the revolution as it does at the political and domestic tables. 1911 Revolution is a visual history of what became a new China that freed itself from the bounds of Imperialism and the corrupted rule of the Qing dynasty. The film starts in San Francisco and quickly moves its way to China following what was a revolution on two fronts: the battlefields of China and the political worlds of Europe and the Qing dynasty. Each scene makes its point very clear as Winston Chao has to make his point clear in his role as the revolutions leader Sun Yat-sen. While he captivates, Jackie Chan’s portrayal of Huang Xing is just as stirring and engaging when he is on and off the battlefield scenes. None of this would feel complete without Bingbing Li’s performance as Xu Zonghan, which repeatedly strikes the cords on what this revolution costs everyone emotionally and physically. Chan, Chao, and Li lead a phenomenal cast that does very well at communicating the emotion in their scenes whether it is the fighting spirit seen in Huang Xing (Jackie Chan) or the pride and thought provoking lines of Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao) that needed to rouse a country waiting for change, or to feel the pain of lost love and revolution that Xu Zonghan (Bingbing Li) must endure. These actors along with their supporting cast give a glimpse of what China and its people pursued despite repeated failure against its last dynasty.
While it is very easy to say that this is not Jackie Chan’s typical role, it is one that should be celebrated more and more. It is easy to respect him for his dedication to the Chinese Drama Academy and to his skills in martial arts, as well as film. But to help create a stunning film such as this should be one of the best reasons to love Jackie Chan as an actor. He plays a very convincing role in the telling of his people’s history and does so magnificently. While he acts superbly, he doesn’t let us forget the fury of his fists, which even as one scene, is a refreshing break from the tension that builds throughout the film. By the time the tension is released and the credits roll there is a sense of gained perspective that is not always present in other films. If nothing else, that is a perfect reason to see this film.
If I have to grade it: 5/5
My grade: It’s visually outstanding with a cast that delivers in each moment. Top it of with a story that leaves me wanting to know more about the subject matter is even better. You shouldn’t miss it.