The film was directed by John Woo, and stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Hu Jun, Lin Chi-ling and Zhao Wei. With an estimated budget of US$80 million, Red Cliff is the most expensive Asian-financed film. The first part of the movie alone grossed out $124 million in Asia, and broke the box office record previously held by Titanic in mainland China.
Following the battle, Liu Bei's chief advisor Zhuge Liang sets forth on a diplomatic mission to Eastern Wu to form an alliance between Liu Bei and Sun Quan to deal with Cao Cao's invasion. Sun Quan was initially in the midst of a dilemma of whether to surrender to resist, but his decision to resist Cao Cao hardens after Zhuge Liang's clever persuasion and a subsequent tiger hunt with his Grand Viceroy Zhou Yu and his sister Sun Shangxiang. Meanwhile, naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun from Jingzhou pledge allegiance to Cao Cao and were received warmly by Cao, who placed them in command of his navy.
Sun Shangxiang has infiltrated Cao Cao's camp and she has been secretly noting details and sending them via a pigeon to Zhuge Liang. Meanwhile, Cao Cao's army is seized with a plague of typhoid fever which kills a number of his troops. Cao Cao cunningly orders the corpses to be sent to the allies' camp, hoping to pass the plague on to his enemies. The allied army's morale is affected when some unsuspecting soldiers let the plague in, and eventually a disheartened Liu Bei leaves with his forces while Zhuge Liang stays behind to assist the Eastern Wu forces. Cao Cao hears that the alliance had collapsed and is overjoyed. At the same time, his naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun propose a new tactic of interlocking the battleships together with iron beams to minimize rocking when sailing on the river and reduce the chances of the troops falling seasick.
The Eastern Wu forces look on as Liu Bei leaves the alliance. From front to back: Zhou Yu (Tony Leung), Sun Quan (Chang Chen), Lu Su (Hou Yong). Subsequently, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang make plans on how to eliminate Cao Cao's naval commanders Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, and produce 100,000 arrows respectively. They agreed that whoever fails to complete his mission will be punished by execution under military law. Zhuge Liang's ingenious strategy of borrowing of arrows with straw boats brought in over 100,000 arrows from the enemy and aroused Cao Cao's suspicions about the loyalty of Cai and Zhang towards him. (This part of the movie is the best part I think). On the other hand, Cao Cao sends Jiang Gan to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender, but Zhou Yu tricks Jiang Gan instead, into believing that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun are planning to assassinate their lord Cao Cao. Both Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu's respective plans complement each other when Cao Cao is convinced, despite earlier having doubts about Jiang Gan's report, that Cai and Zhang were indeed planning to assassinate him by deliberately 'donating' arrows to the enemy. Cai and Zhang are executed and Cao Cao realised his folly afterwards but it was too late.
In the Eastern Wu camp, Sun Shangxiang returns from Cao Cao's camp with a map of the enemy formation. Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang decide to attack Cao Cao's navy with fire after knowing that there is a special climatic condition known only to Eastern Wu's forces, that the South-East Wind (to their advantage) would blow sometime soon. As the Eastern Wu forces made preparations for the fire attack, Huang Gai proposes to Zhou Yu the Self-Torture Ruse to increase their chances of success, but Zhou Yu does not heed it. Before the battle, the forces of Eastern Wu have a final moment together, feasting on glutinous rice balls to celebrate the Winter Festival. Meanwhile, Zhou Yu's wife Xiao Qiao heads towards Cao Cao's camp alone secretly, in hope of persuading Cao Cao to give up his ambitious plans but she fails and decides to distract him instead to buy time for the Eastern Wu forces.
The battle begins when the South-East Wind starts blowing in the middle of the night and the Eastern Wu forces launch their full-scale attack on Cao Cao's navy. On the other hand, Liu Bei's forces, which had apparently left the alliance, start attacking Cao Cao's forts on land. By dawn, Cao Cao's entire navy has been destroyed. The allied forces launch another offensive on Cao Cao's ground army, stationed in his forts, and succeeded in breaking through using testudo formation despite suffering heavy casualties. Although Cao Cao is besieged in his main camp, he manages to holds Zhou Yu hostage after catching him off guard together with Cao Hong. Xiahou Jun appears as well holding Xiao Qiao hostage and causes the allied forces to hesitate. In the nick of time, Zhao Yun manages to reverse the situation by rescuing Xiao Qiao with a surprise attack and put Cao Cao at the mercy of the allied forces instead. Eventually, the allied forces decide to spare Cao Cao's life and tell him never to return before leaving for home. In the final scenes, Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang are seen having a final conversation before Zhuge Liang walks away into the far distance with the newborn foal Mengmeng.
My opinion is that it's a great movie. I'll give this movie a score of 8 out of 10. The story is good. Although it's rather different than the story in the book, but John Woo make the difference not significant. The most incredible part of the movie is the effect, especially when thousands of arrows were flying in the air, the sensation is so real. The cast is great too. All of the artist play his/her part well enough if it's not outstanding. You should watch this movie or buy the DVD.