Kingdom is an adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name (not to be mistaken with the Korean Netflix series). The story centers on a young slave boy, Xin. He works on an old man’s farm along with fellow slave, Piao. The two spend years sneaking off to duel each other and hone their sword fighting skills in an attempt to become the greatest generals China has ever seen.
The film takes place in China during the Warring States era, a period characterized by military battles and bureaucratic reform. The fictionalized retelling of ancient history provides the backdrop to an epic adventure. But the story is as much about a journey to escape a life of slavery as it is a story of military conquest and swordplay.
Xin and Piao’s paths diverge when a nobleman witnesses the two duelling. He purchases Piao and takes him to the palace while Xin remains a slave on the old man’s farm. When Piao returns, it provides Xin a chance to escape his life as a slave and triggers a chain of events that will change all of China forever.
On a journey to discover the reason for his best friend’s murder, Xin meets the usurped king of the Qin dynasty, Yin Zheng.
Kingdom exceeded my expectations. There are surprises at every turn and it’s hard to get too far into the plot without spoiling any of them.
Yin’s attempt to take back his throne and Xin’s quest to escape his station become intertwined. The dignified Yin and the petulant Xin meet an interesting array of characters along the way. Although set during historical events, Kingdom portrays a sense of magic. During Xin’s training, he becomes so strong that he splits a boulder with his sword.
The film is so fantastical that even creatures like a skull-crushing giant and assassin with an animal-like face don’t seem out of place. Yet the movie takes the time to build relationships, such as the one between Xin and Yin, whose personalities and upbringings are polar opposites.
The pacing allows for a myriad of storylines to take form between epic one on one sword fights and large scale military battles. In one moment the brooding Xin recalls moments from his past, lamenting the loss of his friend. The next, he’s fighting against a speedy poison dart shooting assassin in a bamboo forest. Enemies become allies. Allegiances are tested, all culminating in an final stand against thousands of soldiers.
I highly recommend this film whether you are a fan of epic period pieces or amazing sword fights. The film is produced by Sony Pictures and was released worldwide in April 2019. It will be released in the U.S. and Canadia on August 16th.