Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+


Now, I suppose you're wondering: what exactly makes you love this movie, Dale? What makes you type such a bold statement? Well, it would be nice if I didn't have to tell you. It would be cool if you could just take this on faith and go see it for yourself, and get blindsided by this brilliant and ruthlessly entertaining film but I suppose that I should tell you a little bit about it anyway.

The plot is pretty simple, just like the plot of most great movies ("Once Upon a Time in the West", which this movie is just as good as, doesn't have the most complex of plots either and it just doesn't matter in either case). It concerns a master Wudan master named Li Mu Bai (the incomparable Chow Yun Fat, who displays pages of nobility with a single gesture) who is thinking about giving up his life of fighting and wandering and, with it, hanging up his sword: the famous Green Destiny. He charges his longtime friend and fellow Wudan fighter (Michelle Yeoh, adept at the fight sequences and also masterful at the other scenes) with taking the sword to another master, Sir Te. When it gets there, however, the famous implement is soon stolen by a thief who slips away in the night. But not before a magical action sequence that makes pretty much 98% of the action scenes I have ever watched look lame by comparison. Soon, they are searching for the sword and investigating the young daughter of a high-ranking official. Ziyi Zhang is the young woman, a sensational actress and amazing physical performer. Needless to say, she is far less innocent than she seems.

I cannot stress how amazing the action in this movie is. There is not one sequnce that will not make your jaw drop. The choreography by Woo-Ping Yuen (the man who made Keanu soar in "The Matrix") is nothing less than miraculous. The performers are so lithe and nimble that they reminded me of Gene Kelly in his heydey. They soar, they kick and fight with an astounding grace. They move like no other actors ever have. It's amazing when you realize that the only digital magic used to bring these sequences to life were used in removing the cables which made the actors literally fly. Wow!

But there is more to this movie than just the action. The movie itself slowly peels away dramatic and emotional layers that make it easily the most involving martial arts movie ever crafted. The cinematography and scenery are gorgeous and breath-taking. The relationships between the characters are so subtle and gripping: the unspoken love between Chow and Michelle, the feelings between Ziyi and her desert pirate lover, the many facets to Ziyi's mesmerizing character. There is not a moment of this movie that is less than interesting, less than breathtaking, less than magical. The acting, the scenery, the beautiful and lush score, the remarkable transitions, the fights, the way that the actors seem to glide through the air in a fluid way that reminded me less of "The Matrix" than it did of the Peter Pan of my dreams, the gorgeous costumes, the mythic storytelling style.

Add all that up and I don't think I need to tell you that "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is more than just a masterpiece. I think it takes some sort of divine intervention to make a movie this spectacular. "Crouching Tiger" is more than one of the best pictures of the year (I was shocked at how close "Quills" came, it may be just as good, but it will take more viewings of both movies to know for sure), it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experiences.