Let me preface this review by saying that I have never written a movie review in my life that wasn’t a requirement for school. So pardon if I do a less than stellar job. I will try my best.
For starters, I would like to out myself and confess that I actually like watching Filipino movies. I have dragged my unwilling husband to a number of Filipino classics, such as Kimmy Dora (hilarious) and Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo (because the lead character’s name is Anj). I obviously don’t watch everything out there, but I try to give a fair chance to Filipino movie makers, and have on occasion been surprised and even impressed by their efforts. Sadly, a good Filipino movie worth my time, the price of a movie ticket and a bucket of popcorn is few and far between. The last films I had watched were English Only Pls (which was at the very least an effort to explore a different romantic storyline), and This Thing Called Tadhana (which, despite rave reviews, was at best ludicrous in its premise). So you can imagine my hesitation in watching Heneral Luna. I am a sort of history lover (and often catch myself searching Youtube for History Channel’s latest offering) and I was a bit scared of what potential mess they could make out this hero’s life. But as it turns out, this film delivered for me more than entertainment. It sparked in me something that had long been waning–a desire to be a good citizen. Cornballs, right? But yeah, I wish there was some other way to put it.
Okay, so let me attempt to dissect what I liked about the movie in more objective terms. Story/plot: For a film that began by saying that it wasnt very faithful to history, I was surprised to find out that many of the things mentioned there were factual. It is true that Juan Luna (antonio’s famous bro, painter of Spolarium) in a fit of jealousy killed his wife. It’s also documented that the mother of Aguinaldo shouted “Humihinga pa ba?” (or something to that effect) during Luna’s assassination. Every time I enjoy watching a movie that has some basis in fact (eg. Ronin), I make it a point to read up on it to find out which part of the story was true. And I did exactly that with Luna. And yes, the plot was predictable (good vs evil), but then I love Avengers movies, so I guess those are the stories that appeal to me. While Luna is shown as his most heroic self, he also has his foibles. He is a known womanizer, and at many points, he did think of giving it all up. But in the end, it is his humor, and his well of courage that left me inspired.
Actors-In this day and age that dubbing can pass off for acting, I had low expectations to say the least. I really was impressed by most of the actors that were cast. Of course, John Arcilla delivered, but all his supporting actors were laudable as well. I would never have imagined that Epi Quizon could pull off a Mabini (I laughed at the comment of why Mabini never stood up during the entire movie), or that Archie Alemania would be given a chance to show off his acting chops. I really loved Luna’s mother (played by Bing Pimintel) as she recounted the brothers’ youth. She looked so gracious and graceful (as befitting a woman of her stature) While Mon Confiado is known to be a good character actor, maybe they could have chosen one that could make Aguinaldo a more 3-dimensional character, rather than just a president at the mercy of his cronies.
Effects and costume– I normally get distracted when in the middle of a good scene, a bad effect ruins the moment so kudos to the make up artists and special effects guys for not being distracting.
If anything, a raised awareness of a hero that we may have otherwise overlooked is already a good enough result for me. So to the director, Jerrold Tarog, congratulations for a job well done!