War and Beauty (Tham Cung Quy Phi)

In a nutshell, two of the most powerful people in Forbidden City are the emperor and whomever he loves. As a result, women would not only do anything to win his heart but also destroy anyone who gets in their way, and that is War and Beauty.

The four women who responsible for keeping the long television series engaging are Sharen Tang, Maggie Cheung, Charmaine Sheh, and Gigi Lai. Their exceptional performances stay with viewers even after the film is ended. We love them, hate them, pity them, but cannot forget them. Beside beauty, each woman left something for us to remember her by. Yu Fei (Sharen Tang) is strong, smart, and unapologetic. Although her emotional expressions are written all over her face, what she has in mind is not easy to predict. Whether being good or evil, she is never unconvincing. Onn Sin (Maggie Cheung) is kind-hearted, intelligent, and highly witty; therefore, she became the most beloved concubine. Yee Shun (Charmaine Sheh) is elegant, quiet, and cleverly wicked. Her evilness is forgivable because who would want to hurt that calm and rare beauty? Yuk Ying (Gigi Lai) appears to be a pretty girl with no brain on the surface, but deep down she is calculated and knows exactly what she is doing. As these four girls plotting their ways to the top, we get to know their personality and understand why they become heartless.

Beside the performances, the script is close to perfect. The tightly structured writing leaves no room for these actresses to wipe their tears. As soon as a scheme is wrapping up, another one occurs. The biggest flaw, however, is the emperor’s role. They have done a great job of keep him off the screen for the first quarter, but then he comes in. I wonder if it is possible that he would never appear. Let the viewers be the emperor. It’s more exotic to have these beautiful girls trying to seduce me, the viewer, instead of the old man.

Of course, the film would not be complete without the soundtrack and costumes. The theme song, which consists of traditional instruments and a humming voice from a female vocalist, is dramatic, eerie, and haunting. The track floats like a ghost passing through Forbidden City leaving me goose bums. The traditional costumes are aesthetically beautiful. They are rich in detail with great color combination and looking fabulous on these gorgeous women.

Although War and Beauty is a traditional film, a little use of technology would not hurt, but enhances the experience. The 3D modeling of Forbidden City is well built and the transition effect from one place to another is fantastic. It gives viewers a sense of how big the palace is. The entire film takes place in the palace, but there are more than enough picturesque scenes to dazzling the viewers’ eyes. Beside, who would pay attention to the scenes when our eyes are glued to the girls?