Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (????, Wò H? Cáng Lóng) is a 2000 wuxia martial arts film. A Taiwan-Chinese-Hong Kong-American co-production, the film was directed by Ang Lee and featured an international cast of ethnic Chinese actors, including Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen. The film was based on the fourth novel in a pentalogy, known in China as the Crane Iron Pentalogy, by wuxia novelist Wang Dulu. The martial arts and action sequences were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping. Made on a mere US$15 million budget, with dialogue in Mandarin, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became a surprise international success. After its US premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival, it grossed US$128 million in the United States and $213.5 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing foreign-language film in American history. It has won over 40 awards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Taiwan) and three other Academy Awards, and was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film also won three BAFTAs and two Golden Globes, one for "Best Foreign Film" as well as additional nominations for ten BAFTAs including "Best Picture".


The film is set in the Qing Dynasty during Emperor Qianlong's 43rd year of reign (1779). Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-fat) is an accomplished Wudan swordsman. Long ago, his master was murdered by Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), a woman who sought to learn Wudang skills. Mu Bai is also a good friend of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), a female warrior. Mu Bai and Shu Lien have developed feelings for each other, but have never acknowledged or acted on them. Mu Bai, intending to give up his warrior life, asks Shu Lien to transport his sword, also referred to as the Green Destiny, to the city of Beijing, as a gift for their friend, Sir Te (Sihung Lung). At Sir Te's estate, Shu Lien meets Jen (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of Governor Yu (Fa Zeng Li), a visiting Manchu aristocrat. Jen, destined for an arranged marriage and yearning for adventure, seems envious of Shu Lien's warrior lifestyle. One evening, a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te's estate and steals the sword. Mu Bai and Shu Lien, with the assistance of Sir Te's servant Master Bo (Xian Gao), trace the theft to Governor Yu's compound and learn that Jade Fox has been posing as Jen's governess for many years. Bo makes the acquaintance of Inspector Tsai (De Ming Wang), a police investigator from the provinces, and his daughter, May (Li Li), who have come to Beijing in pursuit of Jade Fox, who had murdered Tsai's wife years before. While the three are eating lunch, Jade Fox fires a dart with a written message attached to it, challenging them to a showdown that night. Following a protracted battle, the group is on the verge of defeat when Mu Bai arrives and outmaneuvers Jade Fox. Before Mu Bai can kill Jade Fox, the masked thief reappears and partners with Jade Fox to fight. Jade Fox resumes the fight and kills Tsai before fleeing with the thief (who is revealed to be Jade Fox's protegée, Jen). After seeing Jen fight Mu Bai, Jade Fox realizes Jen had been secretly studying the Wudang manual and has surpassed her in skill. After finding out that Tsai was a police officer, a guilt-ridden Jen returns the Green Destiny to Sir Te's estate but is intercepted by Mu Bai. Mu Bai easily defeats her and offers her to become his pupil. Jen angrily rebukes his offer and flees. When she returns home, Jen confronts Jade Fox and banishes her from the Governor's compound. That night, a desert bandit named Lo (Chang Chen) breaks into Jen's bedroom and asks her to leave with him. A flashback reveals that in the past, when Governor Yu and his family were traveling in the western deserts, Lo (also referred to as "Dark Cloud") and his bandits had raided Jen's caravan; Lo took an heirloom comb from Jen and she pursued him to get it back, but succumbed to exhaustion in the desert. Lo took her to his cave hideout, from which she escaped (knocking Lo out in the process) only to pass out again; when she awoke she was back in the cave again and Lo had tied her up (to keep her from attacking him again). However, Lo and Jen soon fell passionately in love. Lo eventually convinced Jen to return to her family, though not before telling her a legend of a man who jumped off a cliff to make his wishes come true. Because the man's heart was pure, he did not die. Lo came to Beijing to persuade Jen not to go through with her arranged marriage. However, Jen refuses to leave with him; he gives back the stolen comb before he goes. Later, Lo interrupts Jen's wedding procession, begging her to come away with him. Nearby, Shu Lien and Mu Bai convince Lo to wait for Jen at Wudang Mountain, where he will be safe from Jen's family, who are furious with him and have vowed to hunt him down and kill him. After the wedding, Jen runs away and steals the Green Destiny again. Mu Bai, Shu Lien, and Lo are ordered to find and retrieve Jen. Jen visits Shu Lien at one of her dojos, who tells her that Lo is waiting for her at Wudang Mountain. After an angry dispute, the two women engage in a duel. Wielding the Green Destiny, Jen gains the upper hand by destroying every weapon that Shu Lien uses, despite being on the defensive more often than not. But Shu Lien finally uses this to her advantage, surprising Jen by pressing a broken sword to her throat. However, rather than acknowledging her defeat and handing over the sword, Jen injures Shu Lien when she lowers her broken weapon. Mu Bai arrives and pursues Jen into a bamboo forest. A duel ensues where Mu Bai over comes a challenge Jen sets before him (to determine whether she will be his pupil), regaining possession of the Green Destiny. But when Jen still refuses his offer, Mu Bai realizes that she is without honor, thus unworthy of becoming his pupil despite her skills and throws the sword over a waterfall. In pursuit, Jen dives into an adjoining river to retrieve the sword, and is then rescued by Fox. Fox puts Jen into a drugged sleep and places her in a cavern; Mu Bai, Shu Lien and Bo discover her there. Fox suddenly reappears and attacks the others with poisoned darts. Mu Bai blocks the needles with his sword and avenges his master's death by mortally wounding Fox, only to realize that one of the darts hit him in the neck. Fox dies, confessing that her goal had been to kill Jen, because she was furious that Jen hid the secrets of Wudan from her. As Jen runs off to prepare the antidote for the poisoned dart, Mu Bai prepares to die. With his last breaths, he finally confesses his love for Shu Lien, and dies in her arms as Jen returns too late to save him. The Green Destiny is returned to Sir Te. Jen later goes to Wudang Mountain and spends one last night with Lo. The next morning, Lo finds Jen standing on a balcony overlooking the edge of the mountain. In an echo of the legend that they spoke about in the desert, she asks him to make a wish. He complies, wishing for them to be together, back in the desert. Jen then leaps over the side of the mountain into the clouds.