Chow Yun-Fat did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Li Mu Bai in Chow Yun-Fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an entertaining martial arts film about two warriors in search of a stolen sword.
Chow Yun-Fat role is one tailored made for Chow Yun-Fat. Li Mu Bai is the great warrior of the film, although I would very much classify him as lead, he has the least screen time of the film. Li Mu Bai shows up every time in the film to be this wise man who is a master with the sword. He basically shows up pretty much just to get things done by being the most competent person in the room, the courtyard or the forest. Li Mu Bai is a great swordsman and this must be understood. There is not any build up for Li Mu Bai really whenever he shows up it must be understood that he is an impressive force instantly the man to do this is of course Chow Yun-Fat.
Chow Yun-Fat has a terrific amount of natural screen presence which is perfect for this role where he has to make his impact so quickly. Yun-Fat is able to allow us to take it for granted that Li Mu Bai is this great man that the film makes him out to be.Yun-Fat is able to exude the right confidence for Li Mu Bai. Yun-Fat's presence is a unique one where he has strong presence although he always feels rather unassuming in his methods. Yun-Fat never seems uncaring though even as he delivers in the part with such a general ease in his approach. Yun-Fat always brings quiet conviction in his eyes even as he keeps Li Mu Bai a man who is fairly contained with his emotions.
Yun-Fat fits this part without question and makes Li Mu Bai everything that he should stand. Whether it is a wisdom which Yun-Fat conveys through the assured manner he has in the role, or his fighting ability where Yun-Fat of course excels as he is a master of an action scene being believable no matter how absurd a set piece may be. Technically there is also a path that Li Mu Bai is following to find justice for his murdered master, but even this Yun-Fat portrays as a wholly righteous cause. Chow Yun-Fat keeps this as something that Li Mu Bai feels is his duty, but not an unhealthy obsession which is the right way considering the nature of the role.
The unsaid love story between Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) is very well played by both actors as they find the right poignancy through just the genuine simplicity of the love they portray between the two warriors. They both suggest so well in their reaction to one another making the moment at the end of the film when they do vocalize their feelings rather moving. In the end this is not an overly complex role for Chow Yun-Fat, what is demanded from him is to be a very traditional sort of hero who is sympathetic and skilled. Chow Yun-Fat absolutely meets these demands and makes Li Mu Bai properly fulfill his role in the scheme of the film.