Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen, Chow Yun-Fat, Sihung Lung
Director: Ang Lee
Genre: Action/Adventure, Art/Foreign and Romance
Box Office: More than $128 million dollars in total gross
Trivia: Ziyi Zhang studied calligraphy for several months along with her other training for the movie.
Lo: A faithful heart makes wishes come true.
Sir Te: A sword by itself rules nothing. It only comes alive in skilled hands.
Li Mu Bai: Real sharpness comes without effort.
Yu Shu Lien: You were enlightened?
Li Mu Bai: No. I didn’t feel the bliss of enlightenment. Instead…I was surrounded by an endless sorrow.
Yu Shu Lien: Without Green Destiny, you are nothing!
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon grabs the viewer and thrusts them into a mysterious and dangerous version of 19th century China without any hesitation. The images the film produces are among the most beautiful ever put to screen, the emotion backstories are some of the most powerful, and the musical score is one of the most deeply arousing.
The plot centers around the Green Destiny Sword, which was owned by Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat). The film begins by him letting go of the sword, which has caused so much bloodshed over the years that he feels guilty for. Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and him feel a strong attraction towards each other but are both to shy to tell one another. Li Mu Bai gives his sword to Sir Te to guard, but it is stolen by young apprentice assassin/thief Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), who is being tutored by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei). This throws Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien into an oddysey of bloodshed, death, love, and passion. Not to mention some of the most well-choreographed fights I’ve ever seen. They are done by Yuen Wo-Ping (of Kill Bill and The Matrix fame).
There is also a romantic flashback involving Dark Cloud (Chen Chang), a bandit who fights furiously with Jen Yu after raiding her clans carriage with his clan of thieves. The two of them ride and ride through the beautiful, desolate Gobi Desert and eventually, after hours of fighting, fall in love with one another. Jen Yu is going to be engaged, and so Dark Cloud eventually tries to get her back by raiding the wedding.
Director Ang Lee does the perfect job of blending romance with action, something most directors fail at. The character studies that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon does are also extremely well though out, proving for it to be, in my opinion, the best martial arts movie ever made.
The beauty of the cinematography, art direction, costume design, and musical score all add up to one helluva pretty film. It looks so good, in fact, that I would say it’s up there with The Lord of the Rings on its mastery of the visual arts.
Even the fights are gorgeous, almost other-worldly, as ninjas seems to gracefully fly from building-top to building-top, attacking each other every now and then, and then proceeding to glide again. The final fight takes place in the pouring rain, and is done with such an elegance that it bears somewhat of a deep sadness within it. The best-looking fight from the film starts out with Li Mu Bai and Jen Yu fighting while balancing on leaves and twigs high above the treetops. If handled by a regular martial arts director, this would have turned out to be silly, almost parody-like. But Ang Lee handles it so brilliantly that it looks surreal and yet has a realism within it. It is beautiful and grotesque at the same time that I can’t really explain it, but what ever it was, it sucked me right in to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and never spit me back out.