Red Cliff (Chinese: 赤壁; pinyin: Chìbì), also known as The Battle of Red Cliff, is a Chinese epic film based on the Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. The film is expected to be released in two versions. Within Asia, Red Cliff was released in two parts, totaling over four hours in length. The first part was released in July 2008 and the second in January 2009. Outside of Asia, a single 2½ hour film was released in 2009.
The film was directed by John Woo, and stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Hu Jun, Lin Chi-ling and Zhao Wei. With an estimated budget of US$80 million, Red Cliff is the most expensive Asian-financed film to date. The first part of the movie alone grossed $124 million in Asia and broke the box office record previously held by Titanic in mainland China.
In the summer of AD 208 during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the imperial army led by Chancellor (or Prime Minister) Cao Cao embarks on a campaign to eliminate the southern warlords Sun Quan and Liu Bei in the name of eliminating rebels, with the reluctant approval of the Emperor. Cao Cao's mighty army swiftly conquers the southern province of Jingzhou and the Battle of Changban is ignited when Cao Cao's cavalry unit starts attacking the civilians who are on an exodus led by Liu Bei. During the battle, Liu Bei's followers, including his sworn brothers Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, give an excellent display of their legendary combat skills by managing to hold off the enemy while buying time for the civilians to retreat. The warrior Zhao Yun fights bravely to rescue his lord Liu Bei's entrapped family but only succeeded in rescuing Liu's infant son.
Following the battle, Liu Bei's chief advisor Zhuge Liang sets forth on a diplomatic mission to Eastern Wu to form an alliance between Liu Bei and Sun Quan to deal with Cao Cao's invasion. Sun Quan was initially in the midst of a dilemma of whether to surrender or resist, but his decision to resist Cao Cao hardens after Zhuge Liang's clever persuasion and a subsequent tiger hunt with his Grand Viceroy Zhou Yu and his sister Sun Shangxiang. Meanwhile, naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun from Jingzhou pledge allegiance to Cao Cao and were received warmly by Cao, who placed them in command of his navy.
After the hasty formation of the alliance, the forces of Liu Bei and Sun Quan call for a meeting to formulate a plan to counter Cao Cao's army, which is advancing slowly towards Red Cliff at godspeed from both land and water. The battle then begins with Sun Shangxiang leading a light cavalry unit to lure Cao Cao's vanguard army into the Eight Trigrams Formation laid down by the allied forces. Cao Cao's vanguard army is utterly defeated by the allies but Cao Cao shows no disappointment and proceeds to lead his main army to the riverbank directly opposite the allies' main camp where they laid camp. While the allies throw a banquet to celebrate their victory, Zhuge Liang thinks of a plan to send Sun Shangxiang to infiltrate Cao Cao's camp and serve as a spy for them. The duo maintain contact by sending messages via a pigeon. The film ends with Zhou Yu lighting his miniaturised battleships on a map based on the battle formation, signifying his plans for defeating Cao Cao's navy.