Ang Lee's kung fu epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) is a wonderful drama about honor, family, and love. Lee takes you on a sweeping journey through feudal China in his over the top fantasy style. Characters fly from rooftops and trees alike thanks to special practical effects of the era. Ancient China is recreated with magnificent sets, grand sculptures, ornate costumes, detailed swords, and meticulous hairstyles. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is like a dream of a Chinese folktale. It's part family drama and part martial arts combat as both genres are brilliantly executed.
First of all, Ang Lee's direction is masterful and instantly propelled his to all time great director status. His vision for this film is unparalleled to this day. His romance drama scenes are so beautiful and endearing with subtle performances to bring a sweet tenderness to the roles. While Lee's direction for the fight is high speed action and seemingly endless fighting, but shot in such a way that you are held in suspense by every blow. The breathtaking cinematography from Peter Pau will have you gazing at the screen in sheer awe during every scene.
Chow Yun-Fat's leading role as hero swordsman Master Li Mu Bai is legendary. His speed driven combat is as graceful as a dance, but as forceful as a swordsman should be for each move. Yun-Fat brings a calm wisdom and a sure confidence to his role, while simultaneously portraying a hesitant lover. His romance with Michelle Yeoh, as Yu Shu Lien, is touching. They have wondrous chemistry. You completely fall in love with these characters and wish them the best. Yeoh delivers as riveting and fast paced swordsmanship to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as Chow Yun-Fat. Together, they are marvelous fighters and thoughtful heroes. I must say that Michelle Yeoh is pretty devastating as a woman who cannot admit her feelings for her love until it's too late.
I have to mention the stunning and skillful Zhang Ziyi as Jen Yu. Her anti-hero arc is powerful and captivating. Every look Ziyi gives reveals more of her character's feelings without a word. Zhang Ziyi portrays an adorable romance with Chang Chen as Lo the outlaw "Dark Cloud." He is a fun and carefree anti-hero, while she is a hateful villain turned into a sympathetic character over the course of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's massive run-time. She delivers astonishing displays of swordsmanship with fluid, swift, kung fu combat. Likewise, her dramatic acting rips your heart out during her tears for her lover and her despair for her master. Zhang Ziyi immediately established herself as one of the greatest living actresses ever after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Lastly, I should commend Tan Dun's score. His music brings you back in time to ancient China with a romantic haze and a sweeping sincerity. Yo Yo Ma even plays his cello with all his soul for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is hands down one of the most lovely and memorable film scores of all time.