An assassin accepts a dangerous mission to kill a political leader in seventh-century China.
J. Hoberman wrote:
“The Assassin” is extraordinarily beautiful. The film’s editing and narrative construction are, however, no less remarkable. For all its exquisitely furnished interiors and fantastic landscapes, “The Assassin” is far too eccentric to ever seem picturesque. Nor does it unfold like a typical wuxia. Mayhem is abrupt, brief and fragmentary — predicated on suave jump-cuts and largely devoid of special effects.
Manohla Dargis wrote:
A staggeringly lovely period film set in ninth-century China… Filled with palace intrigue, expressive silences, flowing curtains, whispering trees and some of the most ravishingly beautiful images to have graced this festival, “The Assassin” held the Wednesday-night audience in rapturous silence until the closing credits, when thunderous applause and booming bravos swept through the auditorium like a wave.
Adam Nayman wrote:
There’s an old line from D.W. Griffith about how what movies have lost is “the wind in the trees.” Well, look no further than The Assassin, which not only offers its share of swaying foliage, but also connects philosophically to this idea of cinema as exquisite ephemera. Casting his characters in shadows and shooting through thin scrims and brocaded curtains, Hou Hsiao-Hsien keeps his mise-en-scène mysterious, in contrast to the story, which is fairy-tale simple.