An intriguing film of deepest, noir espionage; unforgettable characterizations: focusing on Japan’s colonization of China during WWII; enigmatic portrayals of occupiers and subjects and their objectives during the traumatic enslavement of China’s population, (1937-1945). Delving into the psyches of the protagonists, viewers be forewarned, never trust the obvious; collaborators, communists, xenophobes? Actors Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (“In the Mood for Love”) and Yibo Wang, Lei Huang, soar under the direction of writer/director Er Cheng; scintillating obfuscation, mystifying motives, program their performances. “Hidden Blade” is a masterful, calculated scenario, stroked by blistering, gorgeous cinematography, and a soundtrack, stunningly in tandem with the action – dialogue, unnecessary.
Distracting, but eventually compelling, are the leaps in time from 1945 to the commencement of the occupation, repetition of scenes gifts hints of subsequent, shocking conclusions; surprise is a significant component and evident, manipulative, but not disconcerting, tool of “Hidden Blade”. Historical, intimate portraits of duress, compromise, love and betrayal bloom throughout this spellbinding tale of long ago, portions, poignantly reminiscent of the contemporary era.