英雄 / Hero (2002) dir. Zhang Yimou (张艺谋)
Directed by the internationally-acclaimed Zhang Yimou, Hero is a wuxia film based on the true story of scholar and swordsman Jing Ke’s (荆轲) assassination attempt of the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang (秦始皇) in the Warring States era. Starring Jet Li as the protagonist Nameless (无名), a prefect from the state of Qin, the film revolves around three interrelated stories on assassination attempts of Qin Shihuang told by both Nameless and the Emperor. The first story is fabricated by Nameless, who is only allowed to approach the Emperor after revealing the swords of Long Sky (长空), Flying Snow (飞雪), and Broken Sword (残剑), assassins he claims to have killed and thus protected the Emperor from.
Skeptical, the Emperor then tells the second story, that of Nameless’s own plan to assassinate the Emperor, alleging that Nameless has only claimed to have killed the assassins in order to approach the Emperor and then kill him. Intertwining the art and skill of calligraphy and swordsmanship, cultural influence and military prowess, intellectual and physical, Hero goes on to explore Nameless’s sudden change of heart towards assassinating the king, and the role that the concept of tianxia (天下, all under heaven’) played in unifying the Chinese empire.