Men, Women and Fighting

Hero splashes love and death in ravishing colors

Any foreign-language movie grossing $130 million in North America is likely to have imitators. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon inspired a slew of upmarket Chinese-language action films. Director Zhang Yimou's Hero--retitled Jet Li's Hero for its U.S. release--is the gravest, the most ravishingly beautiful. The best.

A fable from the 3rd century B.C. refracted in modern skepticism, Hero views the birth of the Chinese nation through the murky motives of some of the first Emperor's potential assassins. The plot is a series of tales told by the warrior Nameless (Jet Li) to the Emperor (Chen Daoming). Any or none of the stories...