The weight of anticipation that inevitably falls on a title such as this is practically palpable. Seediq Bale is the most expensive film in Taiwanese history, backed by the government, the ambassador of Taiwan and Producer John Woo and telling a tale of triumph and anguish set across a canvas of historical battles and bloodshed. The Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale to give its full title is currently available in two flavours. The original cut spans across several hours and is available in a two part compendium with a duration of over four and a half hours. The theatrical cut currently doing the rounds of cinemas across the world clocks in at a bum numbing two and a half hours and provides a fast paced if somewhat heavily condensed account of the Wushe Uprising.
Telling the tale of noble tribal chief Mona Rudao and his band of brave warriors and people, Seediq Bale provides an exhaustive account of the conflict that took place between the native Taiwanese people of the land and the newly occupying Japanese forces. Showing the story across a twenty year span of events, we witness Mona’s transformation from young optimist to battered and bruised chief as we bare witness to the atrocities committed by the invading foreigners and the oppressive environment these tribesmen must face.
Much of the films first and second act are a laboured affair as much of the runtime is dedicated to establishing the two sides before the inevitable war ensues. When the battle kicks off though, things really pick up pace as the film is quick to present enough bloodshed to even keep the most gruesome of gore hounds at bay. Quite simply i’ve never seen a film with as many frequent beheadings as this. Nobody is safe, with young men, women, children and even infants meeting grisly ends that will churn the stomach and avert the eyes as a magnitude of bloody deaths take place. The battles are breathless, and deftly paced, Te-Sheng Wei has an amazing handle on his action sequences presenting set pieces that are both astounding yet suitably grounded in reality. Sadly, criticisms must be levied against the nationalistic undertones throughout the piece, The films antagonists are presented as little more than two dimensional snarling villains whilst the heroes are presented so infallibly they are practically messianic.
Much of the context of Seediq Bale’s fight sequences felt shallow due to much of the cut material making many of the characters motivations impenetrable. One seen in particular involving a ritualistic suicide had me completely confounded to the point of wringing my hands in dismay. Thankfully many of these complaints should be rectified by those brave enough to sit down and watch both acts of the fully uncut version. Suffice it to say Seediq Bale provides an excellent if somewhat muddled account of one of the countries most notable events. With an emphasis on action and some beautifully choreographed sequences courtesy of Te-Sheng Wei, Seediq Bale provides an unexpected slice of big budget action rarely seen since the likes of Brave Heart.