FrankieSays’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wong Kar-Wai does sci-fi and shows that no matter how many technological advancements we make, people will still manage to feel lonely. We could take an eternal train to our memories, but there's nothing we can do about the expensive ticket price.
By this point, stunning visuals and excellent scores are just par for the course for Wong Kar-Wai, but I'm still somehow always completely blown away by how much he says by showing so little. It's all the little nuances and artistic touches that get me every time: from the color motifs splashed in the movie, the clothes we see on the characters, and even to the way they carry and present themselves - it's the Wong Kar-Wai Art Show and I'm glad I got an exclusive invite. And now, with science fiction as a backdrop, Wong Kar-Wai has all the freedom in the world to let loose and let the creative juices flow.
He doesn't disappoint.
Another favorite who doesn't disappoint is the impossibly-handsome Tony Leung, whose good looks only seem to get magnified under Wong Kar-Wai's lenses. Despite the movie's long running time and the multiple intersecting plot lines, Tony is a very strong presence all throughout and effortlessly makes the film his own.
His character Mr. Chow is strikingly different from how he was in In the Mood for Love; gone is the silent, tentative man from before, now replaced by a flippant womanizer with no regard for women's emotions. Almost as if Leslie Cheung's character from Days of Being Wild makes a spiritual comeback by possessing the heartbroken Chow. Almost as if Chow's last relationship scared him into living in the moment, instead of caring about the gossip and being so hesitant about everything.
Chow is a sci-fi writer and just like stories of this genre, there's a lot of fancy, expensive-looking things to cover up the reality hidden within. What the technology is to his futuristic stories is what money and flirting are to Chow.
Despite the drastic turn his character's taken, there's still a part of Chow that forces us to understand and sympathize with him. After all, we saw what romance did to him the last time he was In the Mood for Love, so perhaps his behavior now can be justified somewhat. No matter what he thinks, Chow will always see people as time-fillers; all of them second-rate substitutes for the woman he left behind. All of the women androids may look like her or have some part of her personality, but none of them are her. This is both blessing and curse for Chow: on one hand, he can afford to not take any of them seriously. On the other, he cannot afford to take any of them seriously.
Just like his poor protagonist on that never-ending train ride, Chow finds he's never really left Room 2046, and is now forced to question whether he really tried to leave that hotel room or not.
Much like the earlier parts of this trilogy (both, while not required viewing before this, will lend a deeper sense of appreciation for this third part), 2046 is full of missed opportunities, characters who hurt and get hurt, and heartbreaking quotes. The three other women in Chow's life are as equally mesmerizing as their leading man and are all captivating in their own ways.
Zhang Ziyi as The One Who Loved Him, carried just as much heartbreak as Chow, although unlike him, was quite willing to move on when she saw there was no chance of seeing her love fulfilled. She's also the one who calls Chow out on all his flaws and quirks, and questions his behavior by throwing her feelings at him: "So, people are just time-fillers to you?... Are you borrowing me or am I borrowing you?" She's so brazen and so unafraid of showing her emotions, that she still manages to maintain some dignity and pride even when she's bawling her eyes out.
Faye Wong as The One Who Enchanted Him, was a breath of fresh air to the story, her whimsical behavior and stubborn pride helping her realize her true love. With Chow's help, she's probably the only one in the story who achieves real happiness, and after watching her twirling around in her room, practicing her Japanese, you become glad she finds it.
Gong Li as The One Who Saved Him was probably the most complex character on the show, despite having limited screentime. Even when she realized that she was only being used as a proxy for the real Su Li-zhen, she was still determined to help Chow out of his rut. Decked in nothing but black, she's one of the strongest characters in the film - but that's not just because she's a cheating gambler and doesn't seem ashamed of it.
Even if I preferred the first two parts of the trilogy, 2046 is still a fitting finale for the series, as it ties up a lot of loose ends and has a bunch of callbacks to DOBW and ITMFL. Carina Lau is still as feisty and intense as ever, but it seems as if she's lost some of that spunk after DOBW. Maggie Cheung makes a few cameos in sepia-toned flashbacks, reminding us of what sparked the change in Tony Leung. People still think whispering into trees is a great way to let go of your baggage.
And just like DOBW's Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung finds himself thinking of that legless bird from that old legend. So much, that Tony becomes Leslie's legless bird himself, flying from one girl to the next, only to realize that he may have already landed somewhere and died long ago.