Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Message (2009)

The Message is rapidly becoming one of my favorite films I’ve seen in 2011.

When I initially wrote the film up for IMDB I really liked the film but I didn’t go crazy for it. But watching the film a second time, something clicked. Little bits that I missed the first time around became clearer and the narrative threads (hey, there is a clue to the plot in that comment) come together to form a really great war film.

Actually this isn’t so much a war film as an espionage film. There are no real war scenes, mostly it’s just cat and mouse games as the two sides try to win out over the other.

The story is set in Nanking after the Japanese take over. The puppet government is being pressured by the Japanese to pacify the populace and to stop the resistance which is killing both the Japanese overlords and those collaborating with them. The messages for action are being sent through various means hidden in posters, newspapers and fliers that look completely harmless unless you know the code. As games increase the game of cat and mouse intensifies especially after the Japanese begin rounding up suspects.

A tense, often graphically violent film, this is a war story that doesn’t shy away from the real cost of war. Sure we are rooting for our small group of heroes but at the same time it’s very clear that what they are doing and the dangers they are facing will affect the entire country of China. Since they are gambling for truly big stakes they are willing to put themselves in great danger and it occasionally heartbreakingly backfires.

On the second go through I found myself even more invested what happened than the first time and as the film wound toward it’s conclusion I found myself tearing up.

As gripping as the story is the film is also a technical marvel. The title of the film is spelled out in a river; the coded messages flit and fly across the screen making us a knowing participant in the misdirection. It also drives the film from location to location much like the messages send the characters. The look of the film rivals anything that Hollywood ever produced during it’s glamorous heyday. The music perfectly accents the action adding the right kick to events.

I really love this film. It's still early but I'm going to bet it ends up on my best/favorite films of 2011.

If you want to see a great tense thriller this is for you. Actually if you just want to see a great film see this.

1 comment: