In this age of special effects and loud, big-budget Hollywood action movies, it's so refreshing to see a movie that instead of explosions and machine guns is about beauty and grace. Instead of cheesy kung-fooey punches and kicks, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is a form of visual poetry; every shot is a work of art. This is the best martial arts movie I have ever seen.
Ang Lee, who usually directs dramas, pulls out all the stops. His direction is so perfect- he knows that one doesn't have to keep the story going at lightning quick speed. Instead, he lets events take their natural course, and gives equal attention to each area of the film. This is one of the reasons "CTHD" has done so well. No element is overlooked for the sake of another. The performances are perfect, considering the subject matter. Newcomer Zhang Ziyi, in a breakthrough role, is bound to become a star. She is believable, sexy and exquisetly dramatic- three things that usually don't go together. And the acting from Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat is also something to be proud of. None of the performances in "Crouching Tiger" seem fabricated; everything comes from the heart.
Even though the basic premise is flimsy, each character has his or her own story. The histories of each of the characters affect the way they fight; when they battle one another, their hopes, fears, dreams and their very souls are put on the line. Unlike the lackluster "Gladiator", each of the actors in "CTHD" fight with passion and determination. It's refreshing to see an action film woven so extravigantly.
I cannot finish this review without mentioning Tan Dun's incredible score and Peter Pau's cinematography. By mixing western styles and traditional Chinese music, Tan Dun has created something haunting and beautiful. And the cinematography is wonderful. Since Peter Pau chose to use wider angles than most martial arts films during the fights, the action becomes much more amazing. Both of these elements make the film much more exciting than it would have been otherwise.
Ang Lee has created a classic. Just as "The Wizard
of Oz" and "Star Wars" before it, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" has taken a genre to the next level, given us a fantasy to lose ourselves in.