From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s World War II espionage drama, “Lust, Caution,” earned a rare NC-17 rating last year for its graphic sex scenes, but an R-rated version of the movie is available on DVD.
The film follows young Wong Chia Chi (radiant newcomer Wei Tang) as she transforms from shy college student to stop-at-nothing spy for the Chinese resistance.
In 1938, Wong, a university freshman, joins fellow student Kuang’s (Lee-Hom Wang) patriotic drama club. After she emerges as a star actress, he recruits her into an amateur plot to seduce and kill Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who is collaborating with the invading Japanese.
The plot fails, but four years later, Kuang tracks down Wong in Shanghai. The Japanese have occupied the country, Kuang has joined the real resistance, and Mr. Yee has gained power. Resistance leaders want Wong to again try to seduce Mr. Yee and set him up for assassination.
She adopts the fake identity of a worldly rich woman and joins Mrs. Yee’s (Joan Chen) inner circle of friends. She lures Mr. Yee into an affair but is taken aback at the emotional and sexual intensity of their relationship. As the assassination plot looms, Wong wrestles with conflicting feelings toward her new lover.
The sex scenes are quite explicit, even if they do fit the context of the story.
While the elegant film offers moments of intrigue and emotional resonance, at two hours and 35 minutes, it drags on too long to hold viewers in thrall.
Extra: Making-of featurette.