The first of several semi-biographical films about Yip Man (also spelled Ip Man), Ip Man stars martial arts legend Donnie Yen as the legendary martial arts master who was the first to teach Wing Chun, and is famous for teaching Bruce Lee.
Ip Man is more than just a film about martial arts action, and Ip Man himself is a deep and interesting character. Donnie Yen‘s performance is fantastic and he executes the martial arts choreography with finesse. Ip Man is very much a strong but silent type and Yen portrays this perfectly. The back story concerning Ip Man‘s wife and child builds up the bigger picture and he becomes a three dimensional character that we can empathise with and root for.
Ip Man has become something of a stock character, rather like James Bond, and is the subject of several films, none of which particularly follow on from the previous. His legend is a brilliant platform on which to show the horrors that China faced in the 40’s and 50’s when Japan invaded and took away everything, and again this helps to build a grounded and interesting character which is largely what makes the films so successful. This sub-story that evolves and reveals the truth about what happened during Japan’s invasion is an eye opener, and the performances and stunning set design are what carry it off. The dramatic change in the set design, showing the after effects of the invasion is very cleverly constructed.
As can be expected from a martial arts film starring Donnie Yen, the action is brilliantly choreographed. Some of the fight scenes are stunning and jaw dropping, making it a thrilling and exciting film that satisfy’s the audience’s thirst for action. The element of drama and the clever characterisation (aided largely by the great performances all round) give Ip Man a depth that will appeal to those looking for more than just violence for violence sake.
Ip Man’s story is legendary and this film, directed by Wilson Yip who has collaborated with Donnie Yen on five films, is a brilliant starting point for a beautiful, moving and thrilling series. Ip Man is an interesting character who’s legacy no doubt has many interesting stories to tell; it’s a stunning piece of cinema.