Chinese fantasy epic and unlikely Matt Damon vehicle The Great Wall is a milestone of sorts.

Hollywood blockbusters are being increasingly influenced by Chinese investment but not until now, however, have we seen a Chinese-American co-production that so openly embraces Chinese culture.

Unfortunately, it's not a particularly memorable film.

The story follows two mercenaries played by Damon and Pedro Pascal (who Game of Thrones fans will recognise as Oberyn Martell). After surviving an attack from a mysterious monster, the two are captured at the Great Wall of China where they become witness to an ongoing war with the same creatures.


In no way is any of this boring. Most of the story elements are classic tropes and the scripting is competent enough to keep the audience engaged. The film's downfall is the lack of personality in the cast.

Damon and Pascal are meant to be our rugged outlaw anti-heroes; but even though both are known for their charming presence, they just seem bored and uninspired here. You can't entirely blame them; most of their dialogue is explaining the story to the audience and what remains are cheesy one-liners used to augment their personalities.

The visuals are easily the film's saving grace. Director Zhang Yimou, acclaimed for Chinese action blockbusters House of Flying Daggers and Hero, is known for his flashy style, particularly his creative use of colour; and this definitely shows here.

Lu Han as Peng Yong in The Great Wall. Photo / Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures via AP
Lu Han as Peng Yong in The Great Wall. Photo / Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures via AP

There are some sequences where the Chinese culture and excellent cinematography come together exquisitely. Notable are the Chinese lanterns at a funeral and a wash of colour during the final confrontation with the monsters.

In spite of the bored performers and generic script, the combination of beautiful shots and impressive visual effects does give the film some flair of originality.

If you were entertained by the trailers then it's a safe bet you'll enjoy this as a Sunday afternoon movie. Just don't expect too much.


Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe



Zhang Yimou

Running Time:

103 mins


M (Violence)


Star power and impressive visuals can't hide a weak script