Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

PG13 (Mandarin with English Subtitles)

This is a beautifully filmed marital arts adventure-drama/romance-fantasy. How’s that for a category? It tells of great love, lost love, warriors with magnificent abilities, intriguing mysticism, and a stolen sword.

Directed by Ang Lee who did Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm and Ride With The Devil and choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping (The Matrix), this film features the best martial arts action sequences ever recorded … and most of it is done by women! It is truly not to be missed.

A highly skilled warrior, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) has decided to give up his profession, forgo revenging the death of his master at the hands of a female criminal named Jade Fox and plans to give over his beloved 400-year old sword, the Green Dynasty, to an old friend named Sir Te in Beijing. He asks fellow warrior and confidante Yu Shu Lien (the extraordinary Michelle Yeoh) who is head of a security service to deliver the sword. Soon after her arrival at Sir Te’s court, the sword is stolen and a magnificent chase ensues between Shu Lien and the culprit, who we discover is another woman named Jen, the young daughter, of the local governor. Jen is soon to be married against her will and longs for the free spirited life and adventures of a warrior just as she imagines Shu lien must have. But Shu lien tells her that a warrior’s life is filled with rules and responsibilities too, and understanding the heartbreak that Jen is going through, Shu Lien never reveals that she knows Jen’s identity as the thief of the Green Dynasty.

We discover that Jen has a secret love, a bandit named Lo who resides in the desert and that Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien are in love but have never been able to express their emotions to one another. Jen’s own warrior skills were developed by none other than the criminal Jade Fox who serves as Jen’s governess when not teaching her the mystical ways of wandering Ninja-like warriors. It is the secret warrior practices that account for gravity-defying fight sequences such as having the women walk and run up and down walls, skip across roof tops or across water or in one especially unique scene having Li and Jen do battle in the tall tree tops of bamboo as he tries to retrieve the sword from her.

Another aspect that makes this film so good is the characterization and the dialogue. There are lovely touches of humor throughout, but these characters are never cartoonish and the dialogue is respectful of their emotions and the seriousness of this story.

Lotta says Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has elevated the martial arts film to new heights.