Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 35
  2. Negative: 2 out of 35
Watch On
  1. 40
    It’s one of the most cautious readings of lust ever put to film.
  2. 58
    Tang Wei brings a terrible and awe-inspiring purity to an impure character.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Lust, Caution is a disappointment coming from director Ang Lee, but it's a watchable one, and it rattles around in your head for a long time after you've seen it, as much for what it does right as for where it goes wrong.
  4. The bursts of sex and violence that earned this picture an NC-17 rating offer only temporary respite from the encroaching dullness.
  5. 75
    Film by film, Ang Lee, from Taipei out of the University of Illinois, has become one of the world's leading directors. This film was his second Golden Lion winner in three years at the Venice Film Festival. But it is not among his best films. It lacks the focus and fire that his characters finally find. Less sense, more sensibility.
  6. Outside the bedroom, the wartime swirl of intrigue never develops beyond postcard imagery, however. This is one of the major disappointments of the film-going year.
  7. Set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, Ang Lee's uneven new film is a bit like a Chinese variant on Paul Verhoeven's "The Black Book." The sex scenes in this otherwise overly prim period piece are extremely graphic.
  8. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    A beautifully rendered, long, drawn-out but ultimately very satisfying story of betrayal and revenge in an uneasy setting of wartime paranoia.
  9. Lust, Caution wants us to feel the erotic ping of buttoned-up people ripping open those buttons, but too often it's the film's drama that's under wraps.
  10. A brooding meditation on the unnerving power and terrible cost of emotional and political masquerades, the Chinese-language Lust, Caution gets under your skin with its examination of what qualifies as love and what does not.
  11. 63
    There's too much caution and not enough lust.
  12. I didn't feel the love between the flowering idealist and the ruthless killer. If I did, I would have given the movie four stars. Everything else is wonderful.
  13. After seeing "Brokeback Mountain," with its sanctified couplings against a backdrop of purple mountain majesties, some of us felt that Ang Lee owed us a dirty movie with more bodily fluids. Lust, Caution is that movie--for maybe 10 of its 158 minutes. The rest of the film is absorbing, though.
  14. 38
    Lust, Caution could have done with a lot more lust and a lot less caution.
  15. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    There’s a great, piercing story here, but too often you feel you’re watching it through the wrong end of the telescope.
  16. A rich, beautifully detailed espionage thriller that captures the bygone days of Shanghai - and 1940s Hollywood noirs' romantic evocations of same - Lust, Caution is also one of those rare movie experiences: Its scenes of the trysts between Yee and Mak, from their rough-stuff first encounter to the long, tangled love-making sessions of subsequent meetings, are truly erotic.
  17. 75
    The film is never less than beautiful, but it's never truly absorbing.
  18. Reviewed by: Howard Karren
    It might have been better to have played it straight — small instead of epic, chronological instead of deconstructed — and to give his characters some explicitness in history instead of the bedroom.
  19. 88
    The sex is REALLY hot. Not hardcore pornographic (at least by my definition of the term) but close.
  20. 88
    Lee is a true master, and his potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break.
  21. 30
    The sex scenes -- intense, affecting and emotionally raw -- are the best thing about this frustratingly limp movie.
  22. Stylized and visually arresting, with intense sex scenes that earned the film an NC-17 rating, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is an immersion into another time, place and mentality.
  23. The perfectly dressed surfaces couldn't be more lovely, but the long fashion show to the finale smothers the emotions under the length and the look, and Lee's insights into the messy feelings that simmer and stew in the hothouse of sex are, frankly, fairly mundane.
  24. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Lust, Caution is both a cannily constructed spy thriller and a grim kind of love story, but it harbors no illusions about the transformative potential of either revolutionary violence or sexual passion.
  25. 67
    Conceptually, Lust, Caution has been thoroughly thought-through, down to every lipstick stain Wei leaves on her teacups.
  26. This is a movie guaranteed to turn you into a vacillating commitment-phobe, embracing it passionately one moment and then backing off cautiously the next.
  27. Ang Lee's lugubrious spy epic Lust, Caution brings to mind what soldiers say about war: that it's long periods of boredom relieved by moments of extremely heightened excitement.
  28. Lust, Caution -- a truer title would be “Caution: Lust” -- is a sleepy, musty period drama about wartime maneuvers and bedroom calisthenics, and the misguided use of a solid director.
  29. 60
    Running two hours and forty minutes, never finds the same balance: by the time he gets to the lust, it is too late to throw caution to the winds.
  30. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Lee has perfectly captured the details, textures, sights and sounds of a China caught between East and West, occupied by an ancient enemy and quaking on the eve of an earth-shaking revolution.
  31. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    But reserve dampens the passion in Lust, Caution, his beautifully mounted but rather unmoving film. It feels surprisingly cold, despite this erotic thriller's ultra-explicit sex scenes.
  32. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    Too much caution and too little lust squeeze much of the dramatic juice out of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, a 2½--hour period drama that's a long haul for relatively few returns.
  33. Reviewed by: Robert Wilonsky
    Ang Lee's latest foray into forbidden love is as monotonous and disaffecting as "Brokeback Mountain" was gripping and immediate.
  34. Sumptuously produced and beautifully visualized, this is a filmmaker's meditation on the culture that nurtured him. As a piece of entertainment, however, it's hoist by its own paradox -- an almost thrill-free thriller that seems seductive, yet stays resolutely remote.
  35. Though Lust, Caution resounds with these disconcerting themes, it operates on the same principle that distinguishes all lasting romances, be they "Wuthering Heights," "Casablanca" or "When Harry Met Sally."
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 103 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 25
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 25
  3. Negative: 3 out of 25
  1. TimC.
    Mar 10, 2008
    This is a great film if you understand Chinese language and the historic background. It kept me focused throughout the entire movie. Ang Lee This is a great film if you understand Chinese language and the historic background. It kept me focused throughout the entire movie. Ang Lee knew that there could be cultural barrier for westerners watching this movie, for he said he cared most about how Taiwanese and Chinese people viewed the film. Sense of patriotism exhibited during the Japanese occupation and Chinese feeling about traitors is not easily appreciated. By the way, it is largely based on a true story. Full Review »
  2. Feb 6, 2013
    -tension builds in Leung's silences, Tang's glances, spy angst, and Japanese occupation, then explosive in sex and murder
    -title themes
    -tension builds in Leung's silences, Tang's glances, spy angst, and Japanese occupation, then explosive in sex and murder
    -title themes reflect emotions of the time, possibly Japanese regional ambition and international diplomacy (?)
    -good substories of acting, mahjong, and women's roles
    -big historical events not detailed or tightly tied to plot development
    Full Review »
  3. Feb 19, 2014
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. //Spoiler//
    Tony Leung was wonderful but Tang Wei was brilliant, you were able to feel her innocence, a naivee girl abandoned by every man without much say until she meets Mr.Yee. This time she choose to sacrifice herself for him out of love. These were characters with many flaws, broken human beings but love was their escape. Ang Lee carefully weaves you into their psychology and if you are willing can see that they were two very lonely people that found each other in the cold world that they were a part of. In each other they found a piece of themselves. They were able to feel and live again, even if it was for a short while. The ending has to be that way because that is the kind of survival world Mr.Yee lives in. Everyone does what they are suppose to do and take the consequences for their actions.
    Full Review »