This film is passionately romantic -- the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers who face enormous obstacles, within themselves as well as those imposed by the outside world. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a thrilling adventure saga that includes a magical 400-year-old sword called "Green Destiny," a warrior who must avenge the murder of his master, a handsome bandit, the spoiled daughter of a high-ranking official who dreams of the freedom to do what she wants, and the bitter villain who wants to destroy them all. It's dazzling, with breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous costumes, and magnificent cello music played by Yo-Yo Ma. And it has, unquestionably, the most brilliantly staged fight scenes ever put on film, possibly the best that ever will be put on film. Staged by Yuen Wo-Ping (of The Matrix), they're balletic masterpieces. As with the dance numbers of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they are both mesmerizingly graceful and more eloquent than dialogue.
The story is told with great subtlety and power, giving it the quality of a myth or a collective dream. Yu reveals the identity of the masked thief by quietly allowing a teacup to slip out of her hands. When one person is able to catch it with a lightning-fast motion before it hits the floor, Yu knows that her suspicion was correct. When Li touches Yu's hand for the first time, it's a moment of heartbreaking intimacy. The quest for honor and justice could be set in the old West, in ancient Greece, in medieval times, in a 1930s San Francisco detective story, or in some Luke Skywalker-esque space fantasy. Its themes are enduring because they are inside all of us.