Shortly after Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) donates his sword to Sir Te for safe keeping it is stolen. Li, and his unrequited love Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) track the sword down to find it has been taken by Li's great rival Jade Fox.
Fox is determined to keep the sword and has enlisted the help of a mysterious young warrior who, in turn, has their own story to tell.
Initially it is a little bizarre watching some of Asia's most established actors (or, at least most established in Europe and the Americas) flying around under a beautiful Chinese landscape. It should be noted at this point that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not a martial arts film but a combination of a touching love story with fantasy-like fight sequences.
In truth, the storyline is more suited to a video game, especially because of the fantasy elements where the audience can get truly immersed in a different world. That said, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actually does a pretty good job of that itself thanks to some simply fantastic (if not a little clichéd Chinese) sets. From sprawling Asian countryside to secluded caves and from hill-top monasteries to busy town rooftops, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is everything that a Westerner would expect of the East. This is, perhaps, the main reason that it has been so well received.
Chow Yun Fat is his usual mysterious self, perfectly suited for his role; his enactment of the thoroughly irritated Master Li who would like nothing better than to leave his sword to his trusted friend and be with the love of his life in peace and harmony is, I guess, spot on. In terms of acting he is usurped by Ziyi Zhang as the mysterious (although not so much now you know her name...) warrior whose acting as the naive-yet-headstrong Governor's daughter is occasionally quite moving.
If you can get your head around the initial fact that this isn't a martial arts film, you'll love it.