Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
- Chow Yun-Fat as Li Mu Bai
- Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien
- Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu
- Chang Chen as Lo
- Cheng Pei-Pei as Jade Fox
Beautifully realised and full of stunning fight scenes, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is Ang Lee’s outstanding wuxia film, that perfectly balances a thrilling, dramatic story and action. Taking cues from various genres such as period drama and romance, the film is a must watch for cinema lovers.
During the rule of the Qing Dynasty of China, wise and well-known swordsman Li Mu Bai is passing on his famous sword, the Green Destiny, to an old friend. He is friends with Yu Shu Lien, a female warrior. Even though they have developed deep feelings for each other, because of honour and tradition they have suppressed these desires and their love remains unrequited. Not long after the sword has been delivered, it is stolen by a masked thief. Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien then attempt to retrieve it. It is then revealed that the thief is Jen, a general’s daughter who is soon to be married and growing restless with the trappings of women in society. What follows is a stunning film about honour, love and the desire to break from the rules imposed on people, especially women in society.
As I mentioned earlier, the many scenes of fighting are amazing to behold. The spectacle is outstanding as we watch characters jump across buildings whilst grappling with each other and float almost supernaturally with a balletic grace. The rooftop chase between Shu Lien and Jen is a highlight as well as Mu Bai’s duel with Jen through a forest of bamboo trees. Perfectly balanced between the fights is a reflective story of tradition and the old ways pitted against newer ones.
The acting is excellent, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh create convincing portraits of skilled warriors who have repressed deep emotions in order to survive. The biggest revelation however is Zhang Ziyi as the adventurous, conflicted and beautiful Jen. She has an intensity far beyond her young years, as she both captures the youthful, naive side of her character and the serious and skillful other side.
A deep feminist undercurrent runs through the film. Each of the women in the film fight for a specific reason, yet most of the time it is for respect and acceptance in a male-dominated world. This is most apparent in terms of Jen, who does not want to be caged in marriage and effectively ending her chances of experiencing life to the full. The film is made interesting by this undercurrent, as it usually men who dominate the genre of martial arts films.
A finely constructed piece of poetic cinema that isn’t afraid to reference other genres, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a stunning and staggering achievement of filmmaking. If you haven’t seen this film, please do as you won’t regret it.