Thursday, 22 October 2015

Lust, Caution (3 Stars)

In 1938 six university students met in Hong Kong and put on patriotic plays to protest against Japan's invasion of China. They were young idealists that I can readily identify with. Unfortunately, wars are won with bullets, not plays. In 1941 Hong Kong was conquered by Japan in a battle that lasted less than three weeks. No more plays.

In 1942 the students meet again in Shanghai. They're now members of the resistance, assassinating key members of the Chinese puppet government put in place by the Japanese. Their worst enemy is a Chinese collaborator called Yee, the head of the secret police. He's too well guarded for the resistance to get to him. One of the students, Wang Jiazhi, becomes Yee's mistress and attempts to draw Yee into a public place where he can be attacked.

The story is well told and exquisitely filmed, as we would expect from the director Ang Lee, but the end result is unsatisfying. I found it disturbing that Wang is so weak and incapable of doing the job given to her. After all, why did she need to set up Yee to be killed by the others? Couldn't she have killed him herself when they were alone? The way Wang is portrayed in the film she's a disgrace to China and a disgrace to women in general.

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