“THE GREAT WALL” Keeping Them Out, or Us In?

The Great Wall

Release Date: February 17, 2017
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy action violence
Grade: B
Directed By:  Yimou Zhang
Screenplay: Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard & Doug Miro

1700 years to build. 5500 miles long.

The Great Wall is a fantasy, action-adventure movie filmed in Qingdao, China. The Chinese-US film is about a group of mercenaries searching for an elusive black powder in China. One night at a campfire, something mysterious attacks the group. One of the men, William, played by Matt Damon is able to sever a hand of the beast and save himself and another mercenary named Tovar portrayed by Pedro Pascal (Game of Throne & the Mentalist). William decides to keep the hand since he and Tovar have never seen anything like it. The next day, they are chased by Khitan bandits, right up to the gates of the Great Wall of China where they are met by an army.

Having no other options, they surrender to General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau) of the Nameless Order, a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty. Shao enlists the help of Commander Lin Mae to interrogate William and Tovar since she speaks English. They learn of the hand and question William about where he found it. Williams says he took the hand when he killed the monster during a fight.

Commander Lin Mae tells them the history of the Taotie, a colony of alien monsters that rise up every 60 years in Northern China. The Wall was built to keep them away from the rest of the world. They had hoped the invasion was weeks away, but in the process of transferring William and Tovar to a cell, the Wall is attacked and the battalions are mobilized.

The Nameless Order is comprised of five extraordinary units, each with their own specialty. The monsters are prehistoric looking creatures with cat-like agility and the head of an alien monster. They operate as drones in an army controlled by a queen. Their mission is to feed the queen and they kill to eat. After a fantastic battle sequence, the queen recalls her soldiers. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by a young, unskilled soldier named Peng Yong.   Their battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin.  Along with the respect comes a bit of freedom to move about within the Wall and prepare for the next battle.

“I was born into battle. I fought for greed and gods. This is the first war I’ve seen worth fighting.” ~ William

The Great Wall is the first English-language production for Director Yimou Zhang and the largest film ever shot entirely in China.  The special effects were superb.   The creatures were realistic and scary. I especially loved the costume design by Mayes C. Rubeo, who is known for her work on Avatar.   Each sect in the Nameless Order has their own uniform.   Some of them were authentic looking military attire, whereas the acrobatics and archers are clothed in colorful and flowy outfits.

The film is beautifully shot with Dolby Atmos and Auro 11.1 sound. Having visited the Great Wall of China, I found the set design inside the wall enthralling and I enjoyed the concept for the storyline.  The magnitude of the real wall is incredible and Director Zhang did a terrific job conveying the scale of the enormous structure.

If you enjoy action-fantasy films or are just a Matt Damon fan, check out this solid work from a team of talented and rising stars in the industry.~ A.S. MacLeod

We have traveled thousands of miles in search of a weapon more powerful than we’ve ever known.


Matt Damon as William
Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae
William Dafoe as Ballard
Andy Lau as Strategist Wang
Pedro Pascal at Tovar
Hanyu Zhang as General Shao
Lu Han as Peng Yong
Kenny Lin as Commander Chen
Eddie Peng as Commander Wu
Ryan Zheng as Shen (Zheng Kai)

About Laura McDonald