– Spoiler Alert –
Ip Man (2008) is the (true) story about Yip Man, a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun (and trainer of Bruce Lee). The town where he lives, Foshan, is famous for the martial arts of the region. There are many martial arts schools there, but Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen) is not a teacher and keeps to himself. He never accepts students to train. Now and again he spars with people, always defeating them in a seemingly easy manner.
When the Japanese invade China during the Second World War, Ip’s family is displaced from their home, which becomes the Japanese headquarters. Ip has to go to work in the coal mine. The local Japanese general Miura (played by Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) wants his soldiers to learn to fight the Chinese way and offers a bag of rice to anyone who fights his soldiers. Ip refuses to fight initially, but when he sees one of his countrymen executed after a match and learns one of his friends was killed during a fight, he demands to fight ten Japanese soldiers in one match, who he brutally defeats. General Miura becomes obsessed with Ip and the movie ends in a match between the two.
The movie shows the great restraint of the martial arts master. His actions are a delight to watch, easy to follow, and with deadly accuracy and speed. When doing martial arts yourself, this is certainly a movie to learn from.
The story starts with a humorous tone, but quickly gets more serious when the Japanese invasion arrives. There is no ill shown towards the Japanese as invaders in the movie (apart from them taking everything, as invaders do) and the deaths in the fights are due to stupidity of a Chinese fighter and malice of a single Japanese soldier. The torture of a mill owner, on orders of general Miura to get Ip to show up, is only done in the karate way. There is a scene where sexual harassment is implied, but none is shown.
What I liked about the movie is that it shows how a war can change people’s fate, how resilient people can be, and that sportsmanship has no boundaries.
All in all a very good movie to watch, even if you’re not into fighting movies. I would suggest kids need to be 14-yo and up to watch it.
I give it a score of 9/10.