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:: Lust, Caution

Ang Lee's latest directorial outing, Lust, Caution, is an intricate war story (set between 1938-1942) following one girl's adventure into the risky world of espionage and assassination. Wang (Wei Tang) 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.

Wang becomes the sexual interest of the target, 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.

This first act is pacy, sharp and exciting, as Wang, a traditional Chinese good girl who has become a war orphan, grows into her role as an actress and a seducer. Tension is skilfully maintained, and the characters of Kuang and his fellow students are genuinely likeable.

It’s an elegant looking film with care going into every detail in terms of make up, costume and set. However, in its lengthy running time of two and a half hours, it requires a great deal of patience by the viewer. It is worth the wait though. In the final act we see morality upturned and consequences abound. It’s beautiful to look at (the period detail is superb) and sexy as hell, but it sometimes feels like it's never going to get to the finish line. Nevertheless, I stayed engrossed through the whole thing and it leaves a lasting impression. Its haunting fascination is hard to deny.

The acting deserves great credit. Tony Leung really succeeds at creating a character that holds our interest and contains hidden complexities. He’s proven himself to be one of the best actors in Asia. Wei Tang is a newcomer, and she relies on her youthful, pert beauty as well as a hidden pool of intelligence. It's a terrific debut performance for her. When these two characters are together, and as their relationship advances, the film comes alive.

There are some truly serene cinematic moments. Lust, Caution is a gorgeous, tragic film and certainly worth watching.