Hero was directed by the Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. It was first released in China in 2002 and starred Jet Li, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, and Maggie Cheung. It is an action film based on the talk between the king of Qin and the assassin Nameless.
The main plot of the film is that the protagonist, Nameless, claims that he killed three assassins from Zhao State: Long Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow. These three people have been trying to kill the King of Qin for years and 3 years ago they almost succeeded. The reward for killing these three assassins brings Nameless to a 10 paces space to drink with the King. Nameless explained how he conquered them one by one, but the King questions him constantly and provides his own thoughts.
Nameless, seems to be very stoic and calm; however, people can find his change of mind throughout the candles between him and the King of Qin. The candles normally are not moving, but after Nameless tells his story, these candles become violent and point at the King. The king also can read candles as a symbol of inner mind and indicates his own opinion about the story Nameless told; candles suddenly are turning confusedly toward many directions, showing him flustered and frightened that the King sees through his lies. Nameless says that he abandoned all his feelings because he wants to be the best swordsman; however, his feelings, although not clearly displayed on his face, are exposed by candles in front of him.
Besides the main story line, Zhang Yimou used a non-mainstream editing method which is different from the classic Hollywood style of continuity editing. He used non-linear cuts throughout the movie, which provides better view for the audience to understand what they claim happened. Every memory is matched to their talking and is differed by colors. For example, the first story that Nameless told is based on red, which represents fury, passion and violent. Then the King of Qin also imagined his own version of the story, which is portrayed in blue, and it means lies, conspiracy and distrust. After that, Nameless has nothing to do but tell the truth within white, which represents pure, quiet, and truth. Finally, Nameless talks about the story heard from the Broken Sword portrayed in green, which means hope, dream and vitality.
Tan Dun provided great pieces of music for this film as well. He used simple slow-paced string music as non-diegetic music. The music perfectly fits the background of the film. For example, the first time Long Sky fights with Nameless, an old man is playing with traditional Chinese musical instrument. They barely talk to each other, but people can see their attitude throughout the music. They both know that they should be calm during the fight and tries to blend themselves into the rain and music.
The title of the film, Hero, is very ambiguous. Who is the hero in this film? Nameless is the best assassin who can kill the tyrant and finish his high-pressure dominance. The King of Qin also has his own dream about giving civilians a peaceful, stable environment by eliminating all other States near the Qin State. Broken Sword wants to live in the wild or mountain to escape but he is the only person who understands the big picture of this world and influenced many other people. They are all heroes to me.