Lust, Caution is a subdued yet powerful romantic war drama from the acclaimed director of Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee.
Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai during the Second World War, it tells the story of a young woman caught up in a torrid and passionate love affair with a Japanese collaborator marked for death by the Chinese resistance movement.
The story begins at the end. The sequence of events that leads to this point is told in a flashback that comprises the bulk of the movie’s nearly three hours.
The movie’s sequence of events really begins in 1942 when Wong Chia Chi is still a student and a member of an amateur theatre group. Her friends learn from an acquaintance that Mr. Yee, a high ranking member of the Chinese government, has turned traitor and is collaborating with the occupying Japanese Army. This begins the sequence of events that leads Wong Chia Chi to fall in love with the man she is supposed to murder and to the choice that will doom not only her, but those around her. Word of warning-Lust, Caution contains several explicit sex scenes.
The visual tone of the movie is muted and sombre, befitting a war drama. Lee, however, does let the glitz of pre-war Shanghai seep through in some scenes, which allows for the occasional splash of colour to liven up the movie’s otherwise muted palate.
Likewise, the writing is subdued but tight. This is a movie that could have easily been an action film. Credit must be given to Lee, for choosing not to go this route and keeping true to the movie’s source material, a short story of the same name by Eileen Chang. The movie benefits from the understated script. The performances are low key and realistic. This, in turn, gives the already highly charged sex scenes, even more intensity and energy.
On the surface Lust, Caution is dark and brooding romantic tragedy. Upon closer examination, this movie is sultry and brims with passion. Another Oscar nomination for Ang Lee seems likely