capsule review: lust, caution

The only description I had in my mind about Lust, Caution involved the words "espionage thriller" and the flashing red lights of the dreaded NC-17 rating. As it turns out, the film is a quiet, sensitive, and downbeat character piece that slowly unwinds deception laced with the sinister machinations of espionage and assassination set amidst the World War II occupation of China by Japanese forces. It's the tragedy of the spider becoming entangled in its own web. If the movie fails, it is for the same reason it succeeds: the characters act in a fragile, easily disturbed emotional limbo. With the line between truth and deception almost impossible blurred, it's difficult to get past overly low-key characterizations, whose subtlety may mask an absence of dimension, to really dissect the characters. But the film is moving, with the characters' disorientation lingering long after Ang Lee's odd, but appropriate, choice of final shot.

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