Plot – A young Chinese warrior steals a sword from a famed swordsman and then escapes into a world of romantic adventure with a mysterious man on the frontier of the nation – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Director – Ang Lee
Released – 2000
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is probably one of the most acclaimed martial arts films of all time, and justifiably so. It’s one of those movies that, even if you don’t love it, you find hard to find much to dislike or pick apart. Telling the tale of rival warriors hunting for a legendary and powerful sword. This is an almost hypnotic movie that subverts your expectations of what a martial arts film should be and practically flawless from a technical filmmaking point of view.
Boasting a more complex story than the majority of martial arts movies that had made their way to western screens, Crouching Tiger feels closer to the Chinese mythology and lore it wishes to portray and because of that, it really makes you work to keep up with the various subplots.
I’ll admit that on first viewing I found myself getting lost on a couple of occasions, but could quickly catch back up and upon. Part of the reason this is Lee’s decision to slightly mislead the viewer, at first the plot seems to be rather straightforward, however, as the film progresses, it soon becomes apparent that this is a more complex affair, requiring subsequent viewings to fully appreciate all the moving pieces the film throws at you.
I remember when this film was first released, the element that was most widely mentioned or parodied, was the fact that the characters could almost fly. Now, it’s never explained why the characters can do this, you just have to take it for granted.
But for me, this is something that adds to the beauty of the film rather than becoming a gimmick (as some reviews at the time felt), mostly because of how well this element is utilised, giving these fight scenes an almost magical and ethereal feel, that when combined with the beautiful choreography could be mistaken for an immaculate dance sequence rather than actual fight scenes. A truly astonishing watch.
This is where Lee came into his own, shooting these sequences with the utmost care and his keen eye for detail meant you’re glued to the scene and never miss a single hit. This is the first action film that I would call beautiful.
Telling an epic story that although not designed for western audiences, transcended the cultural divides and showed just how far Asian cinema had come since the days of Bruce Lee, no-longer was the story second fiddle to the fighting, now, well-orchestrated fights compliment a beautifully told and entertaining plot, topped off with stunning visuals and nuanced acting. Anyone with a love of cinema should visit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at least a couple of times in their life.
If you liked – Kill Bill, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Great Wall