Lust, Caution – movie review

Lust, Caution - movie review

Lust, Caution is a tale of espionage, murder and matte red lipstick. Directed by Ang Lee. What could be better?

After spending a bit of time looking for a new movie to add to my foreign/indie film collection, I came across a film that caught my attention a while ago, but never got around to watching. Lust, Caution is a hot suspenseful romance centered around 1940’s China, setting the stage for a vast array of political rebellion with Japan taking over Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The story tells of a group of university theater students who devise a plan to assassinate a leading mastermind (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) in the Japanese invasion, all the while with the main character, Chia Chi (Tang Wei) given the most dangerous job as the target’s mistress. Despite being a person who has a vague dislike for movies with too much emphasis on political overstatements, due to the underground interest surrounding this film and the fact that it’s a lesser-known masterpiece, I had to give it a shot.

In all honesty, the movie was astoundingly visual (though quite explicit, given its NC-17 ratings in the United States) and kept me pacing back and forth between many different emotions that ultimately led to frustration. The rebellious underscore was admirable to witness in the midst of an oppressed China. I was completely drawn to Wei, who played her character with such grace that it almost made me want to throw on a cheongsam and find my own dictator to seduce. Her target, known as Mr. Yee, definitely had the charisma to scare the hell out of you and turn you on at the same time. His lack of mood swings made him even more complex, and I had a hard time truly figuring him out. He was a most impressive match to Wei’s submissive teasing.

However, I was thrown off guard by the twists and plots of the story, as I did get a sense that the story dragged on and filled with just a lot of sexual tension and murder plots. Having to understand that this movie was only based on a short story, the movie adaptation served it justice. The sly, serious characters gave me the slight impression that they were a little in over their heads to be a bunch of art students. The espionage aspect of it almost slipped my mind completely, because my attention was turned solely to the way Wei’s character interacted with her target as if this was an everyday affair, and not a real mission (I couldn’t help but to expect some James Bond-ish antics at the end). You could pass her off as either a very skilled prostitute or a naïve bombshell with a lucky streak. In an attempt to conceal the ending, this will not turn out the way you expect, even you expected it to be so.

All in all, this was a great film. Any film that can piss me off and leave me sleepless with wanting more is definitely worth seeing. I think now’s the time to check out 2046…