Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Review

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film I watched multiple times in my youth. I’ve always been captivated by the story, particularly by the actress Zhang Ziyi.

However, looking back, I realize that I may not have fully grasped the themes explored in the movie at that time.

In this review, we will explore the reasons behind the success of this movie and why it’s worth giving it another watch later in your life.


Let’s begin by addressing the fact that the director of this film is none other than Ang Lee, who hails from Taiwan but pursued his studies in cinema in the USA.

While this film is undoubtedly of foreign origin, speaking mandarin, it skillfully blends elements of both Western and Eastern art.

Unlike traditional movies of this genre, which often focus primarily on action, particularly kung fu and fantasy, this particular film delves deeply into its script and exudes an artistic vibe with its longer introspective scenes.

The plot

The plot is fairly straightforward: the daughter of an aristocrat is ambushed in the desert while traveling and ultimately falls in love with the leader of the gang.

However, beneath this seemingly simple storyline lies a wealth of profound themes. The woman, referred to as Jen or Yu Jiao Long, also proves to be a martial arts prodigy, trained by the story’s antagonist, Jade Fox.

Yui Hsui Lien and Li Mu Bai, despite being the two most powerful characters in the story, primarily serve as the antithesis to the character of Yu Jiao Long.

The themes

First we must decrypt the title Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon refer to people with special hidden talents. This chinese idiom is used to remind people to never underestimate anybody.

In this movie, I believe this idiom refers to the talent of Yu Jiao Long, who is essentially a self-taught martial arts prodigy. This is why everyone is drawn to her and seeks to refine this raw talent.

In this instance, the idiom could allude to the unfulfilled potential of individuals within society.

Destiny lies on the other end of conformism

A faithful heart makes wishes comes true

Auden Dar

On the contrary, the central theme is deeply intertwined with the concepts of free will and destiny. From birth, individuals are enveloped by societal expectations, familial aspirations, and moral codes.

While in theory, finding a balance between impulsiveness and blind obedience is ideal, the ultimate freedom is attained by remaining authentic to oneself and, in doing so, attaining inner peace.

Yu Jiao Long, born into aristocracy, was compelled to marry a man who would enhance her father’s societal standing. She led a comfortable yet mundane existence, confined to a luxurious home devoid of any form of adventure.

While Lo ‘Dark Cloud’ and his proposal to live in the desert may have seemed appealing initially, it ultimately proved to be impractical due to the pursuit of the family’s guards, who were intensifying the pressure on the gang leader in search of their daughter. Also she wouldn’t be able to live this life for long or abandoned her family.

Furthermore, Lo appears to be rather possessive, repeatedly asserting “you are mine.” Despite his genuine love for her, and Yu Jiao Long reciprocating those feelings, she ultimately couldn’t deny her innate nature and desire for independence.

Her wish for owning her fate, goes to the extreme of being a force for chaos, destroying everything and everyone around her.

Hence, Li Mu Bai and Yui Hsui Lien made earnest efforts to provide her with a formal education, hoping she could harness this impulsiveness.

However, as the conclusion implies, Li Mu Bai and Yui Hsui Lien themselves live with a sense of regret not having act on their feelings and having been overly obedient to societal norms or even their own notions of morality and honor.

The things we touch have no permanence. My master would say: there is nothing we can hold onto in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real.

Li Mu Bai

Yu Jiao Long perceived that the only path to true freedom lay outside the constraints associated with roles such as lover, wife, daughter, or pupil.

Jen: It must be exciting to be a fighter, to be totally free!
Shu Lien: Fighters have rules too: friendship, trust, integrity. Without rules, we wouldn’t survive for long.
Jen: I’ve read all about people like you. Roaming wild, beating up anyone who gets in your way!

Ultimately, this theme remains relevant in modern society. Many prodigies in life have had to make sacrifices—such as family, love, and friendships—in order to fulfill their potential and embrace their destiny in some respects.

The cast

The ensemble cast of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is notably impressive. Initially, Shu Qi was slated to portray the main character, but she ultimately relinquished the role to Zhang Ziyi, who had recently made her debut in The Road Home.

As a former dancer, Zhang Ziyi adeptly mastered Kung Fu, and her performance in combat scenes was characterized by a poignant virtuosity.

The role was specifically crafted for Chow Yun Fat, imbuing it with a palpable sense of strength and sharpness, while Michelle Yeoh’s portrayal exuded grace and regality.

Upon rewatching the film, I came to realize that Chang Chen, who portrayed Dark Cloud, also appeared in The Grand Master and, more recently, Dune.

The other actors and actresses were impeccably chosen, particularly Jade Fox, whose portrayal as a villain still evoked a sense of decency and compassion towards her character.

The action

I am thoroughly impressed by the style and choreography of the action sequences. On one hand, the fight scenes possess a slight fantastical element with gravity-defying movements, while on the other hand, the one-on-one combat is incredibly fluid and awe-inspiring. It’s akin to watching a ballet of dancers mixed with a Matrix combat scene.

One distinguishing feature of this film is its emphasis on facial expressions, as evidenced in the fight scene between Li Mu Bai and Yu Jiao Long in the bamboo forest.

The cinematography

The visual aesthetics of this film, shot on traditional film, are simply stunning. I’ve always found film to offer deeper and richer colors compared to digital formats. Faces are often illuminated frontally, with minimal shadow, reminiscent of beauty portraits. Exterior scenes, on the other hand, appear soft and diffuse.

I’m genuinely amazed at how they light and capture those action sequences, considering each shot lasts only a few seconds. The amount of effort put into this work is truly incredible. I can’t even fathom how they storyboard these combat scenes.

The soundtrack

Even though I watched this movie when I was young, I still vividly recall its score, which is exceptionally powerful. Yo-Yo Ma and Tan Dun did a remarkable job blending both Western and East Asian cultures.

Throughout the action scenes in the movie, the score follows the tempo of the movements. The attention to detail in the music is truly remarkable, and while it pays homage to what has come before, it also introduces innovative elements. It’s not often that a fantasy period film carries such profound messages.


9.0 out of 10.

Having seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a teenager, I found it mesmerizing. It’s only now, at nearly 37 years old, that I truly comprehend the significance behind the recklessness of the main character.

As the ending implies, Yu Jiao Long is an uncompromising character, or one might say, a pure-hearted individual, unwilling to be swayed by others or societal norms.

She embraces her identity and the consequences it entails, regardless of the outcomes, thus forging her own destiny on her own terms.

This sentiment resonates with many individuals in contemporary society, I believe. When educated from a young age and pressured to adhere to a predetermined path that serves societal interests, one may lose touch with their identity, the sense of adventure in their life, and ultimately, their destiny.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Video Production in Paris :

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Written by dudeoi

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