Last night, I went and saw the movie "Hero." Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of these kinds of movies -- I found "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" to be a drag, and impossible to sit through, despite being visually very brilliant. I thought seeing "Hero" was going to be a similar experience, so I was not going to bother to see it. However, a friend of mine was excited to go, so in the interest of spending time with him, I went.
I was pleasantly surprised by the film. Not only was it's visuals and cinematography beautiful, it also contained some very relevant lessons. In the film, Qin, the emperor of one of China's northern provinces, summons the lethal assassin, known only as Namless, to reward him for fighting and killing three other warriors who provided constant theat to Qin's life. Through series of flashbacks, it is revealed that Nameless may not be in Qin's palace to be honored, but instead to assassinate the emperor himself. He has spent ten years perfecting a lethal move that can be perfectly executed from ten feet away, which is the distance he is allowed to be from the emperor.
(Don't read the rest of this if you have not seen the film and don't want to know what happens)
However, Nameless does not kill Qin. Instead, he put the butt of his sword in the emperor's back, and says that a real hero knows when to put down his weapon, and not strike. As Nameless leaves the palace, Qin, egged on by his guards, orders Nameless assassinated.
Nameless was inspired in his actions by another assassin, named Broken Sword, who, earlier in the film, Nameless had come to to devise a plan to kill the emperor. Sword is unable to be a part of the plan, and keeps repeating two words as his reason -- "One Land." Despite the bad that Qin has done, he is the best hope for the unification of the seven provinces of China. To Broken Sword, a unified China is more important than personal vendetta. His lover, and fellow warrior, Falling Snow, sees this attitude as a weakness, but Nameless takes it to heart. However, it is obvious to Nameless that since he will not kill Qin, he himself will become a sacrificial lamb, and he indeed does. At the film's end, it is revealed that Qin is successful in unifying China, ultimately creating "One Land." However, you're left wondering who, exactly, is the bigger "hero." Credit has to be given to both men, who realized when certain actions were necessary, even if it meant sacrificing themselves.
Incedently, the acting in "Hero" is very successful as well. Especially Tony Leung, who's Broken Sword provides the film's moral core. He's worked with director Yimou Zhang several times before, most notably in "Chung King Express" and "In The Mood For Love." If you haven't checked out any of his films, do so -- I know I'm going to.