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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a tale of unrequited love set against the backdrop of feudal China, featuring some of the most breathtaking scenery and beautifully choreographed martial arts action ever to be seen.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Feature


Chow Yun Fat plays Li Mu Bai, a Wudan warrior of legendary skill. Wudan warriors are possessed of incredible reflexes and balance, and their form of weightless kung fu allows them to defy gravity itself. Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), is an equally impressive martial artist and proud warrior who has a long history with Mu Bai. Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien have a special bond; one that goes deeper than friendship, yet neither can express their true feelings for the other out of their sense of duty and honour.

Li Mu Bai has entrusted his sacred sword (the Green Destiny) to Shu Lien, who is on a mission to bring it to Mu Bai’s friend, Sir Te. It is hoped that with the sword in his care the trail of blood and carnage that has plagued its history will finally come to an end.

While in the care of Sir Te, the Green Destiny is stolen by a thief believed to be the mysterious Jade Fox. Although confronted by Shu Lien, the thief shows remarkable skill in the art of Wudan and escapes with the sword. This draws Li Mu Bai into the fray as he attempts to uncover the true identity of the thief and return the sword to its resting place. Meanwhile, Shu Lien befriends Jen, the rebellious young daughter of a powerful governor, and over time begins to suspect that there is more to the girl than meets the eye…

Crouching Tiger is the best film I've seen in the cinema this year. It does falter slightly about half way through with a protracted desert flashback sequence, but it picks itself back up again almost immediately. The cinematography is stunning, with many varied locations visited.  The score is excellent, and really suits the mood of the feature. The action sequences are what most people are talking about, and they don't disappoint. They are nothing short of outstanding. To top it off the acting is also first rate.

This region three disc is very well presented, with some excellent animated menus and the like, although they do tend to show some of the climactic scenes of the film early on.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Video


The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is very impressive on the whole, and really showcases the outstanding cinematography. This really is a visual feast, with such diverse locations as deserts, forests, cites and mist-covered mountaintops. The fight sequences are wonderfully choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping and his team, and we see the Wudan warriors achieve such impossible feats as running on air and water. There are a couple of minor image issues, such as some dirt on the print, but it is nothing that would significantly detract from the viewing experience. The high video score is as much to do with the wonderful cinematography as the technical merits of the transfer.

Audio


The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also good, and features excellent directional effects (the Wudan fighters were seemingly leaping all around my living room at some points). The various sounds are all reproduced well, and for once we get martial arts without all of the over-exaggerated FX found in the Bruce Lee films etc. One of my favourite elements of the audio is the hauntingly beautiful Tan Dun  score, which sounds fantastic here. The mix is a little on the quiet side though, and I had to crank up the volume a little more than usual. The English dub track is acceptable, but after watching parts of the film in English with the subs on, it’s amazing to see how much the dialogue is altered. You also lose the subtle dialogue inflections present on the original language track. The purists (and indeed most people who want to appreciate the film the way the director intended) will watch the film in the original Mandarin with English subs. As with the video score, the high audio marks reflect the whole aural experience, rather than just the technical accomplishments.

Extras


Extras are pretty comprehensive given that this is a region three release. Included are the theatrical trailer, narrated by ‘Voiceover Man’ (I kept expecting him to pop up on the English dub track), an interview with Michelle Yeoh (which is really quite interesting, she really gets animated about the whole thing), talent files, and a photo gallery. This is much better than the usual static galleries we usually get. Various images are shown, either from behind the scenes or from the completed film, all accompanied by the excellent Tan Dun  score. Also included are two music videos (English and Mandarin versions) for the song 'A Love Before Time', sung by Coco Lee. Lastly is the commentary track with Ang Lee and James Schamus, which is relaxed and very pleasant to listen to. The pair have a good rapport and give some valuable insights into the making of the film.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Overall


Overall this is a very good release, easily on a par with most standard region one and region two discs. There could have been a bit more behind the scenes footage, with some insight into how they planned and filmed the stunning fight sequences (as was the case with The Matrix). Still, that said this is an excellent disc, especially for a region three title. A great film, excellent presentation, a generous amount of extra content, this should be enough to satisfy even the more demanding DVD owners.


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