TIFF Review: Ang Lee's Lust, Caution
by Alex Billington
September 10, 2007
Ang Lee's latest directorial outing, Lust, Caution, is an intricate WWII-based story following one girl's adventure into the risky world of espionage and assassination. Her and a group of school friends discover a man in the city of Hong Kong who is assisting the Japanese in infiltrating their country and government. Therefore in an act of nationalism they attempt to use their acting skills to infiltrate his "crew" themselves and assassinate him. Not according to plan, Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) becomes the sexual interest of their target, named Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), and suddenly becomes the essential keystone of their entire operation. When their initial attempt fails, they regroup three years later in Shanghai and try to finally finish their deadly mission.
There are some truly beautiful cinematic scenes in this, but overall its length (as anyone could guess at being nearly three hours) is the biggest detractor. The filler, which includes some incredibly raunchy sex scenes and mostly dialogue, is good, but nothing great. On the other hand, the great moments are absolutely incredible: a Singin' in the Rain homage and subsequent double-decker bus ride, a shockingly violent scene early on, and some ending sequences that are overlaid with my nomination for best score this year. If it were all of these sequences alone, maybe it would deserve more praise, but for the most part the remainder of the film is only mediocre and doesn't hold as solidly as the rest.
As just mentioned, I've got to give a special commendation to the score, composed by Alexandre Desplat (Syriana, The Painted Veil). There are a lot of beautiful scores that make their way into movies, but since the movie isn't great, the score is easily forgotten (like with The Painted Veil). With Lust, Caution, that isn't the case, as the score accents its often-tragic story perfectly and is one of the greatest elements of the film.
Is Lust, Caution worthy of earning Ang Lee another nomination for Best Picture? Not entirely, but it is one of the better films this year with some truly serene cinematic moments. Ang Lee is definitely a master of his craft and Lust, Caution truly shines with his brilliance in a few moments - at least for part of the film, not every last minute of its 157 minutes.