Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee, made famous for his direction of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain,” tries to continue his streak of success with his latest film, “Lust, Caution.”
The movie, which takes place in post-WWII China (Shanghai and Hong Kong), is based off a short story written by Eileen Chang in 1950. It is being promoted as “a startling erotic espionage thriller about the fate of an ordinary woman’s heart.” Although that may sound like a token movie promotion, it is actually an understatement.
As for being erotic, the movie features many explicit sex scenes between the two main characters, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Wang Jiazhi (Tang Wei), earning it an NC-17 rating. The espionage comes into play when a group of Chinese college students, including Jiazhi, wants to help their country in the resistance against Japan. To do this, Jiazhi has to start a relationship with Mr. Yee, a high-ranking Chinese official that colludes with the Japanese, in an attempt to later kill him.
The highlight of the picture, however, is the performance of Tang Wei, who is making her acting debut. Wei plays a character that is familiar to Ang Lee films, someone who faces agony within but does not know how to effectively cope with it. In this case, maintaining a demanding relationship with Mr. Yee, all the while not giving up her true cover, proves difficult. Throughout the film, the audience will range from great admiration of her character to being extremely frustrated with her actions due to the complexities of her situation, which are mind numbing.
Tony Leung Chie Wai also does a good job of portraying the domineering, yet cautious, Mr. Yee. All the characters in this movie seemed to be portrayed just right. The movie was also shot very well, giving it a believable vintage feel.
“Lust, Caution” does not go without flaw, though. At two hours and 37 minutes, the movie seems to slightly drag at times. Also be warned that the entire picture is in subtitles, though it becomes natural to read the lines only minutes in. The only other questionable aspect is the ending, which seemed to have more potential than seen.
Taken as a whole, this movie is easy to enjoy, with standout acting, beautiful imagery, and a deep storyline that will drag you in until the very end.