Lust, Caution

five stars out of five Failing to notice how long this film was before I put it on, I nevertheless stayed the course, totally hooked on the build-up of intensity in the story. The prolonged escalation gives the initial, violent sex scene greater impact when it happens (and are there any more graphic ‘they’re not faking it’ sex scenes in a mainstream film?).

It’s not a criticism to say that the film uses a classic device, staple of many ‘undercover cop’ films of putting a character into covert situation, at constant risk of discovery. The key moral question is whether and to what extent their initial integrity becomes compromised by the pressure of the situation. The length of the film is used here to convey beautifully how slowly and painfully this happens. Without this, the full emotional strains placed on the central character as she moves from violently sensual sex, struggles with growing feelings for the lover she’s entrapping versus the ’cause’ of the rebel group she works for and then has to join in the mundane gossip in the women’s mah johng group (including the lover’s wife), would all have seemed a bit too glibly carried off. The suspense about how she will react when forced to make a choice between the rebels and the lover is maintained to the very last moment.

Superbly crafted and captivating emotional thriller.


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