To say the story of the Wushe Incident is a forgotten part of 20th century history is a vast understatement. Few people outside of Taiwan today have even heard of it. As with other stories of indigenous people fending off invasion by outsiders this one shows how the natives can only be pushed so far and so hard before they strike back - knowing that the chance of victory is slim to none. This is the central theme in the John Woo produced Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, which deals with the 1930 insurrection by the "Seediq" people in the mountains of Taiwan, which was occupied at the time by the Japanese Empire.
In fact, in this four and a half hour "International Version" of the film the build-up and the reasons "why" are made clear. Taiwan, which was ceded to the Japanese in 1895 following China's loss in the First Sino-Japanese War, was home to the isolated aboriginal mountain peoples known collectively as the Seediq. These warriors, who practiced ritual headhunting, were quickly subjugated by the Japanese and slowly saw their hunting grounds turned into logging camps and their traditional way of life disrupted. As the Japanese were far from benign rulers it was only a matter of time until the Seediq took up arms.
While labeled a modern day Braveheart, in fact this film is more along the lines of The Last Samurai or Lion of the Desert, where indigenous people with a proven warrior spirit must face off against a technically superior army. While William Wallace of Braveheart fame may have held out hopes for an independent Scotland, the Seediq, as with the Samurai or the Libyans facing the Italians (at roughly the same time it should be mentioned) have no such hopes. Instead for them it is a reminder that once they were warriors.
Set in the mountains of Taiwan there is lush beauty and lots of mists and clouds. This gives the film the look of another world, while the bursts of color - notable in a scene where cherry blossoms are suddenly noticed - practically pop off the screen. The picture is clear enough in this 2.35:1 presentation that you can make out the intricate detail of the warrior tattoos on their faces.
However, there are a few moments where the CGI is a little too obvious, made worse by the clarity that this Blu-ray provides. Some of the animals being hunted by the Seediq are clearly just computer generated and the rainbows seem straight out of a computer as well. But getting past these moments this film is breathtaking to view.
If someone's head is cut off in the rainforest does he hear it? Probably not, but the slashing of the blade and the thump of the body on the ground are there thanks to the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Dialog, which includes Chinese, Japanese and even Korean in a few sequences comes through with absolute clarity, while the sounds of the jungle - from the animals to running water - is all immersing. The battle scenes also resound accordingly: the recoil of the rifles, the working of the bolt and of course the sounds of blade on blade.
While the story of the Wushe Incident maybe mostly unknown this Blu-ray contains enough extras to help understand the conflict and how this epic was created. There are actually more than two hours of bonus material including interviews with the director Te-Sheng Wei and producer John Woo, as well as a look at the make-up and visual effects - plus the epic featurette The Epic Journey of the Warriors. There are also trailers for the theatrical release as well as the international trailer.
Hollywood doesn't make ‘em like this sadly. Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale is an epic story that brings to life another forgotten tale of those who stood up to tyranny. It is a film that looks and sounds excellent on Blu-ray and is loaded down with bonus material to boot. This film is also one of those rare occasions where you might root for the headhunters!