Jackie Chan's 100th movie celebrates the 100th anniversary of the rebellion that changed China's future.
1911 is an account of the Xinhai Revolution which ended the Qing Dynasty and brought democracy to China at the turn of the last century.
The film has some epic battle scenes with impressive action, but it's otherwise a huge mess. You can see all the good intentions, wedged in there among the endless, droning lists of historical facts, undeveloped characters, bizarre conversations and confusing events.
This one is a noble failure.
The focus of the movie is on two men: Sun Yat Sen (Winston Chao), who goes on to become the first president of China, and revolutionary leader Huang Xing (Jackie Chan). The two men are friends, and as the revolution unfolds, one is in the heat of the action while the other raises money for the cause and waxes diplomatic. You're right in the centre of the action for the Guangzhou Uprising (of April 1911), and for the tragic sight of the dead rebels, Lin Juemin (Ge Hu) among them, in the aftermath.
Here's Joan Chen chewing scenery as the Dowager Empress. Here's a love affair that seems to spring out of nowhere between Huang Xing and his wife (Li Bingbing) -- a marriage that started as a fiction to serve the rebellion. Here's the Wuchang uprising, here's the wild-eyed general Yuan Shikai (a scene-stealing Sun Chun), here's the carnage at Hanyang.
By the time there's an election and the Qing dynasty is finito, you'll likely leave the theatre feeling no better informed about this period of Chinese history than you were when you walked in.
What you bring with you to 1911 will likely be the deciding factor in how the movie plays. One assumes that a knowledge of the era and the history could make up for much of the inept storytelling. And the editing. And the wooden acting.
If you're looking for the film that will quickly bring Western viewers up to speed on the crucial events of a hundred years ago in China, this isn't it.