The film certainly takes a while to get off the ground, and the first hour and a half or so involves quite subtle shifts in tone and character. Once all the pieces are in place, the film does flow quite elegantly. The sex scenes are far from ribald, and while the rating will certainly keep many away, they are shot in provocative rather than titillating ways, and do serve the story very effectively. The violence and coercion of love is a central theme, as well as notions of loyalty and sense of country in a time of great turmoil.
Wei Tang is absolutely riveting, and the film rightly centres on her subtle performance. Tony Leung’s quite menace is downright chilling, almost unmoving with outbursts of violence and passion that are shocking in their intensity.
Still, in the end, the story seems a bit of a hit and miss, and the overlong running time mars the effectiveness of the fine performances and production values. It’s a film to admire, but not an easy one to fall in love with alas.