While Ang Lee may jump from period novel to comic book from western to wushu, at the heart of his films lies a love story that isn't meant to be. And as with any good tragic romance there should be hurdles for the lovers to overcome. For this director it seems the hurdle should be 10feet tall.
In 1942 in Shanghai, Wong Chia Chi is a student/actress turned amateur spy/honey trap hoping to ensnare and eventually assist in killing Mr.Yee, a government official responsible for capturing, torturing and killing rebels such as she. I can't give you more on the historical relevance of the time and setting and you won't learn much from the film itself, but this never intends to be a history lesson. Instead it is a meditation on, well, lust and caution.
Conjuring up the same subtle longing looks as Crouching Tiger and Brokeback Mountain, this take on the doomed lovers tale, never seems like a take on the doomed lovers tale such is the complexity of the two main leads. I've been a huge fan of Tony Leung for a long time but this could quite possibly be his best performance. At times moody and sexy, at others vile and hateful. Tang Wei as the main lead holds the film together in a way that would make you believe she'd been acting for years. Her heartfelt yet duplicitous (nice word use) nature adds to the 'never stop guessing' ending.
When the end does come, after a fairly hefty 158 minutes, you don't feel that you've been in the cinema for close to 3 hours. And with some films that extend their running time to levels of bum numbing intensity, that is high praise indeed. Oh and I didn't mention the sex scenes once...