The buzz on Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is that the MPAA was slapping the film with an NC-17 rating and that Ang Lee and company were not fighting it. After seeing it, I'm not surprised by either fact. It's an understatement to say that some scenes are rather steamy, and if near pornographic sex scenes make you uncomfortable, perhaps you'll wait for this one on DVD or skip it altogether. The scenes serve a purpose, though; I did not personally find them gratuitous in nature.
A little side commentary: it is a little odd that you can show any sort of murder in explicit nasty detail -- blood, guts, eye-gouging, decapitation, etc. -- and that's R, but please don't let the children see, say, more natural acts. I'm not saying kids should see this movie. Frankly, they'd likely be bored. I'm just noting how much more easily our society deals with one topic than the other.
This story, written by Eileen Chang over a 20+ year period, follows a young and talented high school drama club member named Wang Jiazhi, who somewhat reluctantly joins the resistance against the Japanese occupation of China in the late 30's. Their group is young and naive and probably gets closer to success than they should have when Mr. Yee, a Chinese bureaucrat collaborating with the Japanese, becomes enamoured with young Wang. Years later, the same group finds themselves integrated with a more organized resistance movement, where the real fireworks start.
I overheard some film goers saying that beautiful newcomer Wei Tang was chosen from 10,000 women who auditioned for the part, and that doesn't surprise me. She pulls off a wonderfully complex role skillfully, and is as convincing as a young, naive school girl as she is as a young woman impersonating a low-end sophisticate wife of an exporter. We see her learning to act, dealing with abandonment by her father, learning to woo (and do other things with) men, think on her feet in high-stakes espionage, and make seemingly idle chit-chat with high society women who have nothing better to do than shop and play Mahjong.
The one complaint I heard from one couple in the theatre was that it took over an hour "for the movie to get started". Some people have no appreciation for plot and character development. Had Lee rushed the plot, it never would have worked. I thought the movie worked wonderfully as a suspense movie, keeping you guessing until the very end. My imdb rating: 9/10.