The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer

The Act of Killing by Joshua

documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders
to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic
genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and
lavish musical numbers.

By omitting the historical context
behind the 1965–1966 Indonesian killings and letting the
Indonesian death squad leaders tell their own story, watching
The Act of Killing evokes the
Nietschean idea of ‘gazing into the abyss’. That if one
were to ‘gaze long
into an abyss, the abyss also
gazes into you.’ The Act of
is a deep ocean of ideas, constantly
reflecting the human condition. Every scene was like a wave, with
an entirely different idea, crashing over the previous scene and
provoked a new thought in me. My thought train spiraled and
branched off into different directions.

At first, I thought about the brutality
of man. Then it went to how history is written by the

And then I
thought about the nature of cinema and storytelling. That in the
act of telling their own story, the death squad leaders became
conscious of their past actions through the task of having to
present it to an audience. That aesthetic distance, interestingly
enough, ends up being the distance these death squad leaders needed
to truly examine what they have done.

And then I arrived at the nature of how
extreme ideas in society prevail, despite of how illogical or
inhuman they may be. That logic is relative, anyone can easily
manipulate logic to justify any action. One can make anything sound
logical to do whatever they desired in a given moment.

And like that, the film kept on
giving infinitely and its themes continually deepened. The Werner
Herzog brand of the ‘ecstatic truth’ is at play here. Each
audience member will have their own individual experience of the
film’s ideas and themes, because the film allows it so. Director
Joseph Oppenheimer never puts these men on trial and instead of
burrows for something deeper to reflect humanity at its core. These
men, like anybody, are just human. And I cared and became invested
into their emotional journey through how Oppenheimer displays their
humanity, which was perplexing at points. I had to remind myself
that they were still mass murderers.

At a two and a half hour running time,
the film is too long. It’s hard to sit with such heavy material.
There is a 115-minute theatrical cut that exists, which is 45
minutes shorter than this director’s cut. Joshua Oppenheimer
seemingly wants to covers more ground than needed and less
definitely would have been more. I stuck with it alright because I
was fascinated by the film’s subjects, but it may test the patience
of general audiences. That said, The Act of
is a great story told through subjects
that I never ever want to meet in real life.
It is an unsettling and powerful
experience and is one of the best films of 2013, if not the most

The Raid: Redemption by Gareth Evans

The Raid: Redemption by Gareth Evans

Plot Summary: A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.

What The Raid: Redemption successfully achieves is it makes the onscreen violence threatening once again. There’s no joke in these fights, everybody is fighting to kill and is doing it as efficiently as they can so they can get to the next guy without a moment’s rest. It’s brutal, tough and had me cringing at many instances. It was very much a throwback to 80’s Hong Kong action cinema.

The story is simple enough to set up the action scenes but still manages to give some twists and turns.

A trope I often look forward to in martial arts/action films is the henchmen. A good characterized henchman can add a lot of dimension to story as well as build up to the final climax. There’s a real badass henchman here who’s genuinely a scary mofo. The henchman stole the show!

Iko Uwais is a charming martial arts leading man. Gareth Evans and him seem to have a good thing going, hopefully they can keep working together in future projects. Speaking of which, they’ve already planned  a sequel to this movie. I can’t help but wonder how they’ll top the fights in a second film. I look forward to it nonetheless.

Highly recommended. One of the best surprises of 2012.