Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
A martial arts movie with sub-titles -- hmmm. But like a predator with muscles bunched and ready to spring, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon burst out of nowhere and caught me off guard.
Seeking peace from his bloody past, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) a respected soldier gives custody of his sword, the 400-year-old Green Destiny, to his aged friend Sir Te. When the weapon is stolen, Li and his long-time friend Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) work together to retrieve the ancient, legendary sword. Following a rooftop skirmish, suspicions for the theft fall on the household of Governor Yu. To avoid casting blight on the high official and his family, Shu uses her budding friendship with the Jen Yu (Zhang ZiYi), the governors daughter, to get inside their home.
Moving from the bustling throngs of the Peking streets, to the vast arid desert, then on to the lush wooded mountains of Western China, this story bats around the emotions of its characters like a cat with its prey. Determined to reverence the name of a fallen comrade once engaged to Shu, Li is unable to voice his growing love for her, but finds solace in her affections. Weary of fighting, he still feels duty-bound to avenge the life of his murdered Wudan master. In contrast, the impetuous teen-aged Jen, burdened by her aristocracy, dreads her approaching arranged marriage and rebels in the arms of a desert desperado.
Packed with scenes of clashing swordsmanship and intricate hand-to-hand combat, this movie is a credit to Matrix choreographer Yuen Yo Ping and the martial art skills of the actors, many of who performed their own stunts. But death when dealt is often swift and gruesome.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, taken from Chinese mythology, means hiding your strength from others, a quality mastered by these characters. But for parents trying to balance the powerful lessons of honor and discipline with the vivid and abundant depictions of violence in this movie, caution may be the best weapon of choice especially when considering this title for pre-teens.