This is an absolutely beautiful film, gorgeously photographed, with sets and costumes too die for, perfectly acted, an impeccably well told piece of history. You really couldn't ask for a better made film. That said, I struggled getting through it. It's long, slow moving and very depressing.
(Maybe I felt this way, because I recently watched Paul Verhoeven's The Black Book, which tells a very similar tale, in a much more exciting, guns-a-blazing, breasts-a-popping fashion, with a much happier ending.)
Lust, Caution is so well done that I would call it a must watch for anyone with an interest in history, but don't tread into it lightly. I was enraptured by this glimpse at Chinese history during WWII; it was something I'd never seen before. I really felt for Wong Chia Chi as she infiltrates the Japanese army through the Chinese traitor Mr. Yee, played with tremendous grace by Tony Leung Chiu Wai as he must appear evil, but also sympathetic. Their love affair is the heart of the film; their sex scenes were widely discussed, but I thought they were tame compared to what I'd heard; it's the love that grows within Wong, that is truly painful. She knows that ultimately Yee must be killed for the good of her country, yet she falls in love with him anyways; and it betrays her better judgment.
Maybe this film will be a little less painful, if you don't expect a happy ending. I applaud films that don't paint the world as a perfect place, and this is how it ended for a lot of people during this turbulent time in history. But after all I had gone through with Wong and her group of supporters it was traumatic; obviously this is the point, it's a powerful ending and I'd never ask them to change it.
Lust, Caution might be Ang Lee's most brilliant film; it's nearly flawlessly captured from the smallest detail to the grand design. They could have sped the story up a bit, I did grow bored at times, but I think that Lee really wants you to live with these characters, feel their excitement, disappointments and pain. It's not the most pleasant experience to sit through, but it's worth going back over the film in your head after it's over. - Grade: B