Lust, Caution - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Lust, Caution Reviews

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February 18, 2017
Seduction is dangerous game that can ensnare both the seducee and seducer. This is the simple idea on which Lust, Caution is built, and once the bulkwork of the backstory is set, every detail works as an interlocking part toward this thesis.

For instance, director Ang Lee disperses well-placed, subtle clues (e.g. lipstick on a glass) that make visual the tacit dialogues occurring between Wong Chia Chi and Mr. Yee. Tang Wei's precise acting, like an ambiguous post-coital smile, realize her character's difficult evolution from fixation to consternation to ultimate betrayal.
½ January 3, 2017
The nearly three-hour, erotically charged spy melodrama "Lust, Caution" (2007) is atmospheric, palpably tense, and brazenly epic - it's the type of operatic saga that utilizes time and space as a weapon, using run-time and performative deliberation both to heighten the stakes of its story and enhance our own feelings of transportation. Being set first in Hong Kong and then in Shanghai for a period lasting from 1938-1942, it's crucial that we become convinced that what we're witnessing is, in fact, WWII intrigue without overdrawn cinematic glitz.
And the film's director, the skilled Ang Lee, is plenty adroit at convincing us of his setting and of the story, adapted from the Eileen Chang novella of the same name by Wang Hui-Ling and James Schamus. It's the movie's length that gets to us. Despite most of its one hundred fifty-eight minutes being used efficiently, one can only ponder why Lee's pace is slack for so long, why sauntering character development is made so much more vital than an accumulation of thrills. Eventually "Lust, Caution" builds and nearly explodes in its tension, sexual or otherwise. But a sense that it could have been a tighter, Hitchcockian thriller lingers, and we find ourselves wishing it preferred kinetic energy to a languid proclivity.
It introduces itself in the above mentioned 1938 through a scene that sees a group of glamorous women playing Mah-Jongg, the conversation meaningless and the mood chipper. The get-together is being hosted by the elegant wife (Joan Chen) of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), a controversial special agent who uses his influence to recruit for a dangerous puppet government set up by Japanese officials. But among these beautiful power-players does one woman particularly stand out. She is Mrs. Mai (Tang Wei), the wife of a business magnate.
Or so it seems. Flashbacks reveal that Mrs. Mai is, in actuality, a student actress in way over her head. After gaining critical recognition for a comprehensively patriotic play, one of her peers (Wang Leehom) decides that their acting troupe must make their dedication to their country truer, thus prompting a plot to assassinate Mr. Yee. No one much willing to put themselves on the line overtly, Mrs. Mai, born Wong-Chia-chi, volunteers herself as a pawn. Her mission is to seduce the villain she's fighting against. At his most vulnerable, her cohorts will make sure that their romance ends lethally.
But alas, the conspiracy is interrupted by a violent death right as it's about to lift off, all actions halted for nearly four years. In the 1942 era Shanghai of the film do we see the potential for death exceed far past any of the limits set by the events in 1938, not only because the plot gains traction with revolutionaries but also because Chia-chi, who steps back into Mr. Yee's life after being tracked down by her former comrades, develops a relationship with her enemy that painfully begins to blur her vision.
Upon release in 2007, "Lust, Caution's" merit was not as much as a part of the public discussion as Lee's veraciously staged sex scenes, which, being so unusually graphic for a feature film, earned the movie an NC-17 rating that ultimately corrupted much of its crossover appeal. But in Lee's knowing hands, they feel necessary rather than gratuitous. They communicate, better than any array of dialogue could, that the focal relationship is one that's as equally characterized by its mixtures of hate and of passion.
Chia-chi despises what Mr. Yee stands for, but as she gets to know him through physical connection does she start to see that the man, so caught up in his anger, his power, and his fury, is distinctly aware that he could easily lose all he's worked for in an instant - terror always seems to be lurking in his eyes.
Mr. Yee hates Chia-chi so because she reminds him of his inability to stay faithful to his wife and because she reminds him of the extent of his political authority, which seems to both enlarge his head and frighten him all at once. But as rendezvous between the two steadily metamorphose from brutal S & M sessions to more tender carnal exchanges, we can tell, in ways not expressed by scenes of conversation, that the pair awakens something in one another. And that dynamic is fascinating, considering the way it's never so clear if they love each other or if they despise each other. Both coming with such shaken up senses of self, they don't want to carry an erotic fixation but end up doing so anyway, and it haunts them.
Indubitably can "Lust, Caution" still be viewed as a classic spy thriller made succulent through its gorgeous imagery. Lee has the untouchable mystique of war-era Asia down, and in some ways does the feature resemble Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946), which similarly found a woman using her feminine charms to manipulate a powerful menace in the midst of supple visual electricity (though never for a second does the heroine, played by Ingrid Bergman, appear captivated by her target). But while it's handsome and emotionally involving and oftentimes gripping, unquestionably could a half-hour have been cut - it moves more slowly than a film as potentially taut as it should move. Yet Lee's lavish direction, well-matched by the smartly cast Wei and Chiu-Wei, seduces us. It transports us into its exotic setting, elevated by flagrant sexuality and by ever-present peril, so conclusively that we don't have much time to ask questions. It's only until after we're finished that we have reservations.
October 15, 2016
The best espionage film I've ever seen. Edgy, unpredictable, complex, thrilling, sexy. There are too many adjectives I could list, just watch it... But not with your kids.
June 22, 2016
Really cool foreign film. Enjoyed the WWII setting, the thriller and espionage aspects. Really good acting and cool female lead.
May 23, 2016
A visually opulent but listless and oppressive movie about a femme fatale living at a time of war.
October 18, 2015
This was a one-of-a-kind film. There wasn't anything to be liked, only cinematography to be admired and contemplated. This is a film that you think about long after the screen has gone black. It is horrific, and yet gentle in how it unfolds. The characters are so fully developed and the actors so very skillful in their craft . It delved very deep into very delicate territories of violence, sex and love and tackled them in the most indelicate of ways. I can't recommend it one way or the other.
½ May 24, 2015
I've been scratching my head about this movie since it came out and received positive reviews. The performances are not up to standard and a movie that should feel full of life and passion seemed dull to me. As it is from Ang Lee I revisited it on DVD later and still felt the same way.
½ January 20, 2015
Un poco larga, pero de excelente manufactura y direcciòn. Posee una de las mejores escenas sexuales de los ultimos años.
January 17, 2015
Having watched enough Ang Lee's films to understand and get used to his genius touch on intimacy and humanism, I was really really surprised with "Lust, Caution". The film was so extreme and cruel that I thought I had watched an American espionage film directed by an American director. But towards the ending of the film, all the Ang Lee's trademarks had thankfully gathered to show off a highly unconventional treatment of characters yet very sensitive, very humanist. Of course the feelings, being heavily damaged in the previous parts of the film, could hardly recover by the end, but in overall this is a very well-made thriller with a nostalgic scent of a China of the past pervading from a very authentic setting with excellent production values. Once again, Ang Lee proved himself an adventurous director always desiring to explore new genres and new themes - this time a espionage thriller in the war time, and hell, he succeeded again in satisfying the audience with a first-class thriller despite a highly unsatisfactory ending. The gentle Ang Lee also surprised everyone by switch his treatment of human feelings from a very peaceful and sensitive style to the total extreme with graphical violence and saddistic sex, which had rarely appeared in his films before. Luckily enough for the audience, this is Ang Lee we are talking about, and even those controversial sex scenes were treated by him with utter care to show the character development with all tones of desire, desperation, love, and deception. As usual, Tony Leung was exceptional in his role - the way he excels in Wong Kar-wai's films, but it is Tang Wei who deserves the biggest applauds for her audacity, sensitiveness, and her radiant beauty that is incomparable in her generation of Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese actresses. From Tang Wei's face, the audience can feel a sense of ambiguity between pure innocence and formidable desire, between love and hate, between the good and the bad - a sense of ambiguity so strong that it encompasses the environment of the film in a whole. It is a pity that the "NC-17" controversy had overshadowed Tang Wei's effort (under the brilliant direction by Ang Lee and with the expert cooperation from Tony Leung, of course) in depicting an extraordinary character that is exceptionally strong and deeply complex. As the film was intentionally (by the director, and by the original writer of the source materials - Eileen Chang, I suppose) devoid of political and historical implications (which mostly served as a neutral yet extreme environment for the development of characters), such ambiguity contributed a great deal in solidifying the film as a classic treatment of human feelings and desires in the middle of the war, instead of a simple Shakespearean "melo". The ending disappointed me a little bit for its strangely lax focus on the fates of the characters (the ambiguity prevailed again here!), but the film in a whole and the fantastic Tang Wei are more than enough for any one who like espionage, and/or humanist tragedy.
½ November 10, 2014
Upon second viewing I saw what Ang Lee was probably trying to show in this well-constructed spy thriller with dark romantic undertones. It's a gorgeously filmed deeply moving emotional espionage film, it's different, and, the performances are excellent.
½ July 27, 2014
Excellent action, plot and historical information about war time in Shanghai
½ June 10, 2014
Ang Lee proves once again he is one of cinema's brightest light. Lust, Caution delivers an emotionally shattering experience that would haunt you for days if not weeks.
June 7, 2014
Subtle and controversial portrait of a conflicted wartime female spy. Not for everyone.
April 15, 2014
Beautiful film with witty dialogue and plenty of suspense. The film has terrific acting and excellent production value. However, I must castigate the author of the novella, as the ending is completely anti-climactic, uninspired, ludicrous, and ultimately disappointing.
March 20, 2014
Just saw this, and what a delight. I can't and probably never will forget the camera movement of this film, it was just fascinating. Tony Leung is a brilliant actor and I must say, brilliant acting and directing and you have this stupendous piece of film. The entire film was just startling, the narrative just makes you awed at how it was done, the pacing, the structure. Seriously wonderful.

2nd Viewing: For me, this particularly memorable phrase is the most stunning thing about the film as it explains a lot.

''He not only gets inside me, he worms his way into my heart like a snake. Deeper. All the way in. I take him in like a slave. I play my part faithfully so I, too, can get to his heart...''

Can you imagine, viewing the end, how much that was not true at all? A female who changes and a male who is as spineless as he was. The reversals seen in dialogue, like the 'whore' and who really was a whore and how the female, as empowered as she was, was undone by her feminity. Easily one of the best East Asian films ever
March 5, 2014
pretty good and excellently filmed.
December 22, 2013
Beautifully shot and well acted film and quietly mesmerising.
November 6, 2013
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
November 5, 2013
I actually think the movie is better then the novel itself.
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