‘Once upon a time in Vietnam’ (2013) is an action film directed by Dustin Nguyen who also stars as main character Dao. The plot focuses on the story of warrior who is on the hunt for deserters as per leader, General Long’s orders. Instantly viewers are drawn in by the stunning visuals as we follow Dao on his travels through Vietnam. Dao travels to a small village and rents a room from a kind baker Hien (Thai Hoa). It becomes clear that Hien’s wife Ahn (Thanh Van Ngo) and Dao have a history. It is slowly revealed to viewers that Ahn is a member of monkhood and had deserted the group many years ago. Dao despite his feelings for Ahn forces her to make a decision, either return to the monkhood, abandoning her family, or be executed like the rest of the deserters. The story begins to focus on the history of Dao and Ahn’s relationship and as Ahn tries to come to a decision more secrets are unfolded. When Dao and Ahn’s son start to become close it is revealed that Hien is not the child’s father. Hien’s business and relationship with his son is slowly falling apart making Ahn’s choice to leave her son more difficult. The story keeps us on edge as we try to work out what will happen to Ahn if she stays and the truth behind her leaving the monkhood. The storyline creates suspense through the entire film and leads us to the dramatic ending which introduces the films antagonist General Long (Roger Yuan).
To my surprise the storyline was quite fast paced keeping viewers constantly at the edge of their seats. The plot had many twists, which made the film stand out, as I like many others, am usually able to guess how a film will end. The film was unpredictable which kept audiences constantly entertained, the film-combined action, fantasy, romance with classic martial arts elements. Whilst watching the film its hard not to appreciate the attention to detail in the costumes as well as the films location. As well as that the film had very unique and unusual elements – despite the villagers costumes and homes appearing quite old fashioned Dao travels through Vietnam on a motorcycle. Nguyen creates a whole new fantasy world in this film mixing classic warrior film elements with modern twists. I think this really added to the visuals of the film – we see Dao in old fashioned armour rinding on a motorcycle which goes against the classic conventions of warrior films where the only transport appears to be horses. Overall even though this film isn’t my usual choice I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. The storyline was engaging and unpredictable and the visuals of the film were stunning. The film exceeded my expectations, the storyline is full of suspense and keeps viewers entertained right till the end. Nguyen mixes classic conventions with his own imaginative ideas to create a story that will attract fans of all genres of film.