Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility) directs this epic tale full of action, drama and romance in the magnificent settings of Ancient China as events surrounding the theft of a special sword initiate an engaging plot filled with honorable characters, amazing martial arts and sweeping landscapes.
An astute warrior named Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and his close associate Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) help a local dignitary named Sir Te (Sihung Lung) recover the “Green Destiny” sword after a mysterious thief attains it.
Li Mu Bai wants to move on from his troubling, yet distinguished past, but the investigation, which Yu Shu Lien handles personally, involves him more than he wants. Yu Shu Lien acts wisely during her investigation as she discovers the thief in an intelligent and honorable way while Li Mu Bai discovers certain revelations about his master’s past.
Each of these subplots supplies meaningful action that leave a lasting impression on the audience just as much as the martial arts scenes do. Yoeh (Tomorrow Never Dies, Supercop) and Yun-Fat (Anna and the King, Hard Boiled) anchor as film with dramatic and romantic roles while exhibiting their amazing martial arts techniques.
The magnetically talented 20-year-old Ziyi Zhang (Rush Hour 2) has a prominent, star making role as Jen that deserves some serious Oscar consideration. Jen’s arranged marriage and the politics surrounding the theft play key elements in the plot. Chen Chang plays her love interest Lo, veteran actress Pei-pei Cheng plays the antagonist Jade Fox, and Fazeng Li and Xian Gao make their acting debuts as Governor Yu and Bo, respectively.
The martial arts sequences, expertly staged by kung-fu choreographer Woo-ping Yuen who worked on The Matrix, take place in various settings at various times in the day. This reviewer has never seen such amazing choreography and talented execution of martial arts in the entire history of film. Tan Dun and famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma provide the wondrous soundtrack worthy of the stunning visuals and jaw dropping martial arts sequences.
Peter Pau provides the crisp, colorful cinematography while Timmy Yip covers many of the film’s visual details in his double duty as the production and costume design. The writing in the film gives the audience several memorable dialogue from the characters without being preachy and giving to many heavy-handed lessons in life. “A faithful heart makes wishes come true”; “Sometimes the greatest heroes are also the greatest idiots”; and “The best way to trap a fox is through her cubs” represent some of the subtle and meaningful communications the characters emulate to each other.
Based on the book of the same title written by Du Lu Wang, this highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars), Oscar worthy film is rated PG-13 for violence and some sexuality. The cast and crew did a fantastic job except for a horseman who wears sunglasses in a scene in the desert. Notice the dramatic way the characters lives change because of two simple items in the plot (the characters comment on these points with a few choice lines of dialogue) and how you thoroughly understand the good and evil in each character.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler