“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) is a spellbinding Chinese fantasy-adventure film starring Chow Yun-Fat as Master Li Mu Bai, an 18th century Wudang swordsman who, upon retirement, bequeaths his prized “Green Destiny" sword to his benefactor Sir Te (Sihung Lung). Entrusting the sword’s delivery to his close associate Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), the 400 year-old blade is furtively stolen in the night-time by a masked thief, setting off a frenzied quest for its retrieval.
Hot on the trail of the mysterious thief, Mu Bai soon finds himself confronted by the deadly female assassin known as Jade Fox (Pei-Pei Cheng), whose incursion remains opaque and alarming to the renowned warrior. Parallel to Mu Bai’s travails runs the story of Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang), daughter to the powerful Governor Yu (Fa Zeng Li) who enjoys a surreptitious and passionate love affair with a bandit named “Lo Dark Cloud” (Chen Chang). Her own connection to the missing saber proves to be crucial to the film’s complex narrative, as its disparate principal characters converge in escalating sequences of visceral confrontation and outright warfare.
Based on the novel by Wang Dulu and directed by renowned Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”, “The Life of Pi”), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a breathless and strikingly majestic escapade, highlighted by swift, gravity-defying stunt work and utterly mesmerizing cinematography courtesy of Peter Pau (“The Killer”, “The Forbidden Kingdom”). Lee brings wonderful reverie to the proceedings, elevating his creation far above standard martial arts-action fare to a realm of wholly superior craftsmanship and cinematic escapism. A profound and luminous pleasure—an absolutely mandatory viewing experience.
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