Film Review

“”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”” boasts an unusually complex cast of heroes, villains and heroines. Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat play two warriors who conceal their love for each other. Debutante Ziyi Zhang counters as the seemingly complacent young daughter of an aristocrat.

The film’s soothingly exotic atmosphere comes from its non-Western setting. The references and symbolism in the movie are probably lost on a Western audience.

However, the story deals with universal themes. Two pairs of lovers have to choose their paths in life, toward honor, loyalty, pride or love. A legendary sword called “”The Green Destiny”” forms a point around which the characters’ lives revolve. The plot follows the characters and their supernatural fighting moves, which never stop surprising the audience.

Viewing this film requires a certain ability to delay gratification: The dialogue is subtitled, not dubbed, and there is little “”surface action”” in the first 20 minutes. Be warned: Do not leave. The action eventually hits and takes you so high that you might lose sight of your seat.

We’re talking platinum-level fantasy-fighting choreography.

There is a scene in the film that might qualify as this year’s longest flashback. Lean back and indulge.

“”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”” played in independent cinemas right before Christmas. It is now in general release, much to the annoyance of those who saw it without being prompted by the huge billboards outside the megaplexes.

Sony has really taken its hat off — and opened its money bag — for this picture, for good reason. If we all give in to our inner desire, scrap our food budget and see the movie more than once, maybe other films will be granted the same privilege and the world will become a better and more informed place, populated by people with the ability to read subtitles.