In 18th Century China, when a nefarious thief steals a prized sword, a passionate female warrior joins forces with a young female aristocrat in a quest for justice.
When Taiwanese director Ang Lee left Hollywood to uncharacteristically make a wuxia film in China, he ended up with a Best Foreign Film Oscar. In so doing, he introduced the thrills of the genre to unfamiliar audiences, made a superstar of Zhang Ziy, and crafted a lovely and moving romance as well.
If some outdated wirework is seriously what hinders you from enjoying this movie, then I feel genuinely sad for you. There's a lot going on here and martial arts choreography is just the allegorical framework for Chinese gender politics and clashing modern ideals against filial piety.
the martial arts scenes are breathtaking but the real strength of the story is the silent, forbidden love between Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat. you can feel the secret longing hiding underneath their calm controlled exteriors.
the story manages to fit in love, teenage rebellion and family intersperse with amazing kung-fu scenes. perhaps the most meditative kung-fu movie ever.
This film is pure story. It never takes a break to give you some action. The action sequences are actually acting scenes! How they fight reveals who they are: the methodical calm of Li Mu Bai, the wild hubris of Jen Wu, the clumsy missteps of Bo. A grand masterwork unequaled in wuxia.
It's downright poetic that I found this boring and confusing as a kid but lovely now, since it's so much about a clash of pains between the impetuous young and those who have a bit more life/love/loss under their belt. Wisdom through swordplay and vice-versa—with some loose, narrative loopiness that Lee doesn't handle as well as King Hu. But he succeeds in making an action film that searches so much for tranquility.
One of the most memorable films of the last two decades. Everything is masterly: timing, changing tempo of narration, camera, sound design and of course the carefully crafted martial arts sequences with their mix of movements, colors, sounds and music (which makes some scenes to a nearly abstract interplay of audiovisual elements). Beyond that the film Tan Dun's music is one of the composer's best film scores.
Watching "Sense and Sensibility" for the first time, I had the (not exactly profound) realization 'This is just like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon...only without the martial arts!' Though CTHD must be considered a development of Ang Lee's signature themes, as this feels like the first film in which his characters acknowledge that the harder they resist their emotions, the sooner they are overpowered by them.
Ang Lee truly is one of the best directors working today and this is toward the top of my list of favorites of his films. It is all-around beautiful, with the love story actually taking center stage over the spectacular fight sequences. One of the best of the last decade.