A violent 1930 uprising by a few hundred Taiwanese aboriginals against their Japanese occupiers gets the "Braveheart"treatment by director-screenwriter Wei Te-Sheng in "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale," purportedly the most expensive movie production in Taiwan history (and the nation's submission to the Oscars this year).
The first part of the film details rivalries among assorted Seediq mountain tribes, who clash over hunting ground protocol but agree on the threat imposed byJapan'saggressive colonial encroachment in 1895. Focusing on the maturing of true historical figure Mouna Rudo from boyish hunter to fierce warrior and finally middle-aged leader of the decades-later attack, the film portrays a proud people's near-suicidal rebellion with a dizzying array of tones: tense in planning, scarily clever regarding jungle warfare, grimly serious about sacrifice, and in the combat scenes, ferocious to a bloody extreme. (Beheadings are the Seediq way, and the term "head count" gets a whole new meaning here.)
With battle-sequence echoes of Vietnam movies, western shoot-outs and swordfighting epics, Wei could have skimped on characterization, but he keeps cartoonishness at bay in his portrayals of aboriginals — some who are conflicted about their purpose — and a Japanese force of sometimes underestimating bureaucrats. Plus, as the elder Mouna, Lin Ching-Tai boasts a mesmerizing weariness and madness in his eyes.