Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

A young woman in ancient China longs for an adventurous life rather than a dull arranged marriage in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial arts epic.

Year: 2000
Certificate: 12
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Lung Hsiung, Ang Lee, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Chow Yun Fat, Cheng Pei-pei, Xian Gao, Fa Zeng Li, Yan Hai, De Ming Wang, Chen Chang, Pei-pei Cheng, Sihung Lung, Yun-Fat Chow, Ziyi Zhang

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This review is part of our month of International Movies at New on Netflix.

This breathtaking wuxia (historical martial arts film) made waves across the world back in 2001. On its way to an incredible ten Oscar nominations, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” became the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever in both in the UK and the US. Nearly two decades on, and the impact of Ang Lee’s film remains virtually unmatched for a subtitled film in the West.

In the late 18th Century, a legendary warrior, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat), retires and gifts his famed sword, the Green Destiny, to a close friend. However, a mysterious thief steals the blade one night, right from under the nose of bodyguard Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Signs point towards feared criminal Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), who murdered Mu Bai’s master and has been posing as the governess to Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), the soon-to-be-married daughter of a powerful Governor.

“Crouching Tiger” is renowned for its incredible fight scenes. Lee utilises traditional “wire-fu” techniques to send his harnessed actors flying through the air and compliments the majestic action with agile, and effortlessly poised, camerawork. Beyond the immense technical achievement, Lee works with his choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, a renowned martial arts expert who was coming off the back of industry-changing work on “The Matrix,” to ensure that every fight scene tells a story. Each clash has a narrative, with clears beats, crescendos and arcs.

Surprisingly nuanced performances ground the high-flying action. Yun-fat is as captivating a screen presence as ever, but it’s the trio of powerful women who set the screen alight. Yeoh, Ziyi and Pei-pei deliver magisterial performances while ensuring that their complex characters feel real, even when they’re soaring through the air. It’s undeniable, though, that “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is at its best during the transcendent fight scenes. Under Lee’s eye, the mesmeric choreography and stunt work, stunning Chinese scenery, and bracingly human performances combine to create one of the most outrageously beautiful visual feasts in cinema history.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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