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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001)

tomatometer

97

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 150
Fresh: 146 | Rotten: 4

The movie that catapulted Ang Lee into the ranks of upper echelon Hollywood filmmakers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features a deft mix of amazing martial arts battles, beautiful scenery, and tasteful drama.

97

Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 34
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 1

The movie that catapulted Ang Lee into the ranks of upper echelon Hollywood filmmakers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features a deft mix of amazing martial arts battles, beautiful scenery, and tasteful drama.

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 424,255

My Rating

Movie Info

Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee took a break from making Western period dramas to fashion this wild and woolly martial arts spectacular featuring special effects and action sequences courtesy of the choreographer of The Matrix (1999), Yuen Woo Ping. In the early 19th century, martial arts master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is about to retire and enter a life of meditation, though he quietly longs to avenge the death of his master, who was killed by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei). He gives his sword, a fabled

Jun 5, 2001

$127.7M

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Latest News on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

September 13, 2006:
Yeoh Joins "True North" and "Babylon A.D."
When we last saw Michelle Yeoh on the big screen, she was teaching Zhang Ziyi the finer points of...
September 13, 2006:
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Zhang Ziyi and action director Yuen Woo-Ping last worked together in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden...

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All Critics (165) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (146) | Rotten (4) | DVD (43)

The smartest and smartest-looking action movie of the year.

July 19, 2003
San Jose Mercury News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's abundantly clear that Lee, in conjunction with fight choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping (famed for The Matrix), has brought to these standard tropes his own elevating, near-feline sensibilities.

April 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Chow reveals astonishing depths. But the revelation is Yeoh.

June 4, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's rare to find a film that satisfies our craving for pop while giving us the transcendence of poetry.

May 21, 2001 Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic IconTop Critic

High art meets high spirits in a rapturously romantic epic that really kicks butt.

February 7, 2001 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You need a roadmap to find the hidden masterpiece.

February 7, 2001 Full Review Source: Slate
Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A film that works on many levels, be it action, drama, or romance, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is recommended viewing for anyone who likes their martial arts with some heart and soul.

November 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

I'm glad to join the ranks of fans who continue to be breath taken with this incredible epic.

May 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Ang Lee's crowd-pleasing martial arts actioner is captivating and thrilling from beginning to end.

March 4, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comment (1)
EmanuelLevy.Com

Amazing, magical martial arts fairy tale.

December 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

There's an ethereal dramatic effect here that transcends a primary function of imagination and storytelling.

November 22, 2010 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Often imitated, never equaled, "Crouching Tiger" soars because it showcases culture as much as cutting-edge martial arts. Unfinished business, unspoken passions and unwanted prejudices stand beside fists (and feet) of fury in a lyrical film.

September 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Suite101.com
Suite101.com

Lee brought a distinct elegance to the wuxia genre of mythic, lyrical martial arts pictures...a breathtaking visual and emotional experience for the viewer...[Blu-ray]

July 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

The movie is good, sometimes very good, but I suspect it's a masterpiece only for those who haven't seen all the earlier masterpieces that equal or surpass it.

July 30, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

With his latest film, Lee has created a lyrical fairy tale for adults, a sublime synthesis of martial arts action with dramatic sophistication.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

The film has so many different elements that there's enough in it to appeal to almost everyone.

November 29, 2006 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

...my expectations were high, and I wasn't disappointed.

December 31, 2005 Full Review Source: Supercala.com
Supercala.com

Lo and behold. An action movie that isn't about 'seize the day' or 'follow your heart' opportunism.

January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

It's a feeling akin to seeing Peter Pan fly for the first time or watching the first light-saber duel in Star Wars.

June 22, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mixes In the Mood for Love's unobtainable romance with Dancer in the Dark's selfless-to-the-end philosophy.

April 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Film and Felt
Film and Felt

Within five minutes of the opening you'll wonder when was the last time you felt so alive, so excited in a cinema.

February 12, 2003 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland)

It's FANTASTIC!

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

You've never seen a martial arts film like this one.

October 21, 2002 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

A haunting, tragic fairy tale for the ages.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

Audience Reviews for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

One of the traps with reviewing cinema outside of the Hollywood mainstream is assuming that difference equates to higher quality. We're so used to the American approach to storytelling and characterisation, with Hollywood-style films being made all over the world, that the second someone comes along with a slightly different approach, we assume that it must have some greater value. This over-valuing can lead to greater misconceptions about the cultures from which such films emanate, leading us to regard as paradigm-shifting art what said culture regards as derivative, third-rate trash.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came at a time when American audiences were starting to gain a new-found familiarity with 'Asian' or 'Eastern' cinema. Together with Spirited Away, it was a watershed for bringing Chinese, Japanese and Korean films to greater attention in the West. While you might have cause for debating exactly how ground-breaking it is within its given genre of wuxia, it is still a great film with a well-told story which finds director Ang Lee at the peak of his powers.

I spoke about Lee's directorial style in my review of Life of Pi, for which he eventually won the Oscar for Best Director. With the possible exception of Hulk, Lee has always managed to strike an enviable balance between visual poetry and detailed characterisation. While the narratives in his films aren't always the most complex or profound, he has a knack of continually pulling us back toward the underlying story, where many lesser directors would get lost in the pyrotechnics.

Whatever else is true about it, Crouching Tiger (as it will be known hereafter) is very pretty. Peter Pau, who won an Oscar for his cinematography, fills the screen with natural shades and then lights them in an almost ethereal manner. The way that the greens of the bamboo and Li Mu Bai's sword seem to shimmer beautifully reflects the dream-like quality of Lee's storytelling and the epic, melodramatic feel that he was going for. This is all the more extraordinary given that Pau previously lensed the horror-comedy Bride of Chucky and Warriors of Virtue, a tedious affair noted for its incoherent, blurry action scenes.

Much of the appeal of martial arts films lies in their physicality and choreography. Many people who went to see Enter the Dragon weren't particularly interested in its story - they were simply taken in by how Bruce Lee could move in the fight scenes. Crouching Tiger benefits in this regard by the presence of Yuen Woo-Ping, the same man who choreographed The Matrix trilogy and later lent his talents to Kill Bill.

While the Wachowskis were off experimenting with 'bullet-time', developing the work of Lee's contemporary John Woo, Crouching Tiger takes a more balletic approach. It treats its martial arts like an elaborate dance, in which the violence perpetrated by sword, dart or hand is as much an end in itself as a means towards a more elaborate series of steps. The film almost draws your attention to the fact that many of the moves being performed are physically impossible, prolonging the length of jumps and glides that could only be achieved by highly-skilled wire work.

Of course, it's possible to appreciate the beauty of characters performing impossible stunts as an aesthetic exercise, such as the running and flying through the bamboo. But Lee manages to keep our disbelief suspended by investing so much time in the characters before the really outstanding fight scenes come along. Even if the story is painted in broad, epic strokes, it's strong enough and feels genuine enough that the dramatic scenes matter, whereas in a weaker film they would merely book-end the set-pieces.

A good example of this comes in a conversation between Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi about halfway through the film. During a conversation about the latter's character getting married, Yeoh deliberately allows a small bowl or dish to fall from the table. Ziyi's character grabs it instantly in mid-air, preventing it from smashing on the floor and demonstrating her great reflexes, unintentionally and perhaps unconsciously. This small but impressive action confirms in Yeoh's mind her suspicions about the identity of the Green Destiny's thief - suspicions which we had entertained for some time, and which turn out to be correct.

This example also illuminates the storytelling technique employed by Crouching Tiger. It is melodramatic, insofar as the characters operate within clearly-drawn archetypes and their character development is reasonably clear from the outset. We can probably guess that the love between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien is destined to be unrequited, just as the thief's identity can be quickly ascertained by the very deliberate close-up on the eyes. While the plot isn't exactly spelled out for the audience, it is possible to spot most of its major points before they occur.

Many films at this point would fall apart because the characters aren't interesting or appealing enough to rise above their generic limitations - films like The Snows of Kilimanjaro, A Place in the Sun, or to a lesser extent Gojira. But Crouching Tiger uses its restrictions more proactively, using our foreknowledge to justify its emotional arcs all the more. Lee repeatedly uses very tight close-ups to force us to read into the characters' faces, and Zhang Ziyi in particular is very adept at making even the slightest smile or tiniest flicker of her eyes seem deeply meaningful.

Crouching Tiger explores a number of interesting themes which bring a greater depth to these kinds of character interactions. One of its big themes is hidden talent, with talent either hiding in plain sight (Jen Yu) or taking every precaution to stay in the shadows (Jade Fox). The title of the film is a literal translation of the original Chinese, which properly translated refers to "a place full of talented and extraordinary people hidden from view."

Within this is a comment on the manner in which women are underestimated or misjudged. Wuxia films incorporate many elements of chivalry, which traditionally depicts the male protagonists as heroes defending the honour of the women. Jen Yu and Yu Shu Lien both sword-fight, but the former consciously rebels against the accepted order, talking back to seasoned warriors like they were naughty schoolboys. The sequence where she lays waste to dozens of fighters in the inn (along with most of the inn itself) is much more empowering than anything that Tarantino has managed when he has dabbled in martial arts.

The film also examines the dominance of teachers over their students, even when the student shows tremendous ability. Most of the characters have some kind of grudge or burden relating to their masters. Jade Fox was sexually assaulted by her master, which makes her bitter, twisted and hateful of all men. Jen Yu doesn't want to be anybody's servant, rebelling against Jade Fox and longing for the more equal and respectful relationship she enjoyed with Lo in the desert. Li Mu Bai's solemn demeanour comes from his vow to avenge his master's death, with his search for justice ultimately leading to his own untimely end.

There is a recurring motif later in the film relating to poison. Poison is both the method used by Jade Fox to defeat Li Mu Bai and a symbol of her corrupting influence over the young Jen Yu. Li Mu Bai's desire for inner peace and clarity is in stark contrast to the chaotic, scrambled mind of Jade Fox; her actions are impulsive, desperate and cowardly, while his are controlled, effective and noble. It's a film about how passion can lead to destruction, whether by the hand of one's enemies or one's own choices. Jen Yu ends the film by diving off the waterfall, hoping to rejoin Lo; her passions have only brought her death and isolation from her friends, and she can no longer deal with either.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a great film which successfully conveys the conventions of wuxia to a Western audience. While those more familiar with the genre may not find it quite so remarkable, it remains a gripping romantic epic with memorable characters, interesting themes and visual beauty to spare. It's also a great introduction to cinema outside the English language or the Hollywood sphere of influence, and essential viewing for anyone interested in martial arts.
July 17, 2014
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

The main problem I have with CROUCHING TIGER is the dubbing. As usual when dubbing between languages, the voice actors' words don't at all match up with the actors' lip movements. But there's an even bigger issue here that I have never seen in a foreign film before: the voice acting is terrible! Some characters such as Yu Shu Lien are utterly boring to watch because the English dubbing voice was most likely computer-generated; and other warriors make you wonder why the film is so praised because their dialogue is so frivolously delivered.

What brought CROUCHING TIGER out of its hole were the combat sequences. Unlike in other martial arts flicks, the slow-mo shots aren't put to an aggravating overuse, but rather used sparingly and just when we least expect. Not to mention Tan Dun's music, which works well just as well for dramatic scenes (ocarina music) as it does with such intense scenes (full orchestral music).
February 21, 2012
spielberg00

Super Reviewer

Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film that combines beautiful cinematography, romance, and tons of great action sequences. I haven't watched a whole lot of martial arts, or wuxia, films, but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon makes me want to watch more films in the genre. Plus, I just started taking Tae Kwon Do classes so I guess that can be considered a requirement.

The plot follows two warriors, Master Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien, who must retrieve the legendary sword, Green Destiny, from the clutches of the notorious thief, Jade Fox. The warriors soon cross paths with Jen Yu, the teenage daughter of a nobleman with a secret. Jen soon finds the warrior in herself and teams up with the two warriors to get the Green Destiny back. There is also a subplot that explores Jen Yu's love life.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a well crafted film. It does a good job developing the characters and story and is loaded with eye candy. The stuntwork in this films is incredible and the performances in the cast are great. It's a very stylistic film that includes a lot of substance and the two work out perfectly.

When I sometimes think about martial arts movies, I get images in my head of a clichéd sensei or master giving wise zen quotes. The film avoids that and focuses more on the story than the martial arts. That's how I interpret the movie. This is a film that people interpret differently due to the ending. Trust me. Those final seconds of the movie are going to stick with you. The script is also fine. I love the dialogue during the romantic subplot. When Jen gets her freak on, they give her some pretty sassy dialogue.

The performances in this movie are excellent. There is not one bad actor in this film. I watched the original Madarin dub. I saw a bit of the English dub and wasn't totally impressed. It dumbed down the acting in my opinion. While I enjoyed Michelle Yeoh and thought Chow Yun Fat was awesome, major kudos go to Zhang Ziyi as Jen. This movie kicked off her career. The only other thing I saw her in was Rush Hour 2 but she's been in many other Asian films after this. Anyways, I just loved her as an actress and also as a crush. She starts off as a curious teen and then becomes a great warrior. I'm a sucker for cat fights and she engages in one of the best in cinematic history.

Also, the cinematography is exceptional. The landscapes are beautiful. It left me speechless and that's all I can say about it. The pacing started to bug me a little in the begining but toward the climax, it works very well. The romance suplot feels like an entirely different movie. It is also well developed throughout and makes an impact on the glouriously filmed final scene. Zhang Ziyi's chemistry with Chen Chang is perfect.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a spectacular film with breathtaking cinematography, memorable performances, a thrilling plot, a great romance, and has amazing action sequences. I need to explore more Wuxia films like Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon or Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Regarding Seven Samurai, I have an urge to see it but what seems to put me off is it's run time. I'll have to give it a try since it's a widely praised film. If you haven't seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, get to it. You will be entralled by this epic.

Thanks for reading my first review of 2012!

"Now give yourself up and find yourself again."
January 19, 2012
Movie Monster
Bentley Lyles

Super Reviewer

For this film, Ang Lee decided to put his career of making Western period epics on hold and instead make a far Eastern histprically based period epic. That's totally cool by me. The story here is a action packed but also romantic epic concerning several plotlines of love and vengeance all connected in some way to a very special (downright sacred) sword known as the Green Destiny.

The film is widely known for its stunning visuals and expertly choreographed and executed fight scenes and wire work. I'm kinda on the fence about wire-fu, and like a more realistic type of fight scene, but as longs as it actually serves the story and isn't there solely for the sake of style and flashiness, then I'm totally cool with it. Thankfully, that is the case here, and the gravity bending moves don't actually feel out of place in an otherwise realistic film. This works becuase the way the characters are constructed: we believe their incredible feats to be true because of their supposed mastery of fighting, and also with how the materia lis handled.

This film isn't all just cool action and beautiful cinematography though. There's a real story here, filled with substance and deth, and great themes like gender roles and dealing with societal constraints and the effects they can have. Plus, the two main romances are both really good and nicely contrast one another, and everything going on really comes alive thanks to the terrific performances of the cast. The veteran leads are excellent, but their younger co-star Zhang Ziyi really steals the show here in a flawless performance that really got her career off the ground.

All in all, this is some really tremendous stuff. It was nominated for a ton of Oscars, and ended up (deservedly) winning 4 of them (best original score, best cinematography, best art direction, and best foreign language film). Too bad it couldn't also have walked away with the awards for picture and director as well. Regardless of all that, you should definitely give this one a watch.
December 2, 2011
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Sir Te: When it comes to emotions, even great heroes can be idiots.
    – Submitted by Peter L (18 months ago)
    1. Sir Te: When will this end? They take it, they put it back, they take it again. My home is turning into a warehouse.
    – Submitted by Peter L (18 months ago)
    1. Yui Hsui Lien: Mr. Wong, I have lost my travelers checks.
    – Submitted by Roger M (2 years ago)
    1. Li Mu Bai: A sword by itself rules nothing. It only comes alive in skilled hands.
    – Submitted by Nusfish K (2 years ago)
    1. Li Mu Bai: I would rather be a ghost drifting by your side as a condemned soul than enter heaven without you... because of your love, I will never be a lonely spirit
    – Submitted by Adrian G (2 years ago)
View all quotes (5)

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