An extraordinary combination of drama and Hong Kong martial arts, Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon vividly tells a story of being true to oneself. The search for the missing Sword of Green Destiny leads the characters into numerous events where fear and death are on the horizon and where tradition, honor, and loyalty must not be forgotten.
Most of the remarkable features of this film lie within the story itself. The film features two strong female protagonists: Yu Shu Lien, played by Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies), a skillful warrior and Jen Yu, a young woman in search of her identity, played by Zhang Ziyi. These women both long for the qualities that the other possesses. Yu Shu Lien desires youth and the ability to love, while Jen desires the strength and respect that Lien has earned. Despite their admiration of each other, their differences result in an astonishing duel that is deeper than the fight itself. Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) a Wudan fighter and friend of Yu Shu Lien seeks to retire, but avenging the death of his master still hangs over his head. He too is forced to deal with his own limitations and fears throughout the film.
The fight sequences, choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping (also the choreographer for The Matrix), are visually appealing and are truly exhilarating to watch. There is a scene in which Yun Fat and Ziyi battle on top of tree limbs with the gracefulness of ballerinas. The fierce sword fights and the dangerous rendezvous on rooftops reveal the inner feelings and emotions of the characters making these scenes an integral part of the film, not a means to an end.
In addition, Ang Lee brings many aspects of Chinese culture to the screen, which enables the moviegoer to become an active participant in this unforgettable adventure. The arranged marriages, China’s social construction, and the use of vibrant colors help unveil a deeper understanding for the characters and their culture. Furthermore, the pure essence and beauty of China is portrayed through carefully selected shots of China’s remarkable landscapes.
What’s intriguing about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is Lee’s ability to portray women as equal to, if not stronger than, men. These ideals are novel in a culture that has historically suppressed women.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon… original, entertaining, and breathtaking… a cinematic masterpiece not to be missed.