Watch out, Academy! Filipinos are coming out to play.
Words cannot express how beautiful and tragic this movie is. I will not push through the regular formats of my reviews because I want to make this film the exception. It is because this film is the exception. I have nothing but my support and my whole being surrendered to this movie. Only a fool would say that this movie has lost all its senses. It is the most beautiful Filipino film that I have ever seen.
Set during the Philippine-American war, a short-tempered Filipino general faces an enemy more formidable than the American army: his own treacherous countrymen.
In 1898, General Antonio Luna ( John Arcilla ), commander of the revolutionary army, is spoiling for a fight. The Philippines, after three hundred years as a Spanish colony, has unwillingly come under American rule. General Luna wants to fight for freedom but members of the elite would rather strike a deal with the United States. The infighting is fierce in the new cabinet but General Luna and his loyal men forge ahead even as his military decisions are met with resistance from soldiers who are loyal only to President Aguinaldo ( Mon Confiado ). Ultimately, it is the general’s legendary temper and pride that bring him to his death when a pack of presidential guards assassinate him in broad daylight. While American newspapers are quick to point the blame to Aguinaldo, the mystery has never been completely solved and the General’s killers were never put to justice.
Left to right:
Mon Confiado as President Emilio Aguinaldo
Epi Quizon as Apolinario Mabini
Arron Villaflor as Joven Hernando
Nonie Buencamino as Felipe Buencamino
Left to right:
Joem Bascon as Col. Paco Roman
Archie Alemania as Capt. Eduardo Rusca
Paulo Avelino as Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar
Ben Alves as Lt. Manuel Quezon
Left to right:
Art Acuna as Col. Manuel Bernal
Alex Medina as Capt. Jose Bernal
Alvin Anson as Capt. Jose Alejandrino
Ronnie Lazaro as Lt. Garcia
Left to right:
Leo Martinez as Pedro Paterno
Lorenz Martinez as Gen. Tomas Mascardo
Ketchup Eusebio as Capt. Janolino
Mylene Dizon as Isabel
Bing Pimentel as Donya Laureana Luna
I have never seen a war movie like Heneral Luna. As a history buff myself, I expected a lot from this movie. When I heard talks about it, I was eager to wait for it. What got me more excited is that my former history professor and former older schoolmates and classmates raved about it. Truth be told, I have not been that excited for a Filipino movie since… forever? Actually, forever is an understatement. I have never been this excited for a historical Filipino movie until Heneral Luna.
I love history more than any other subject. I even made a report about the Philippine-American War during my first year in college. I could say that I researched extensively because I explained the Philippine-American War in a “cause and effect” format, which is what history is all about. What I did not tell my classmates was that I am intrigued by Antonio Luna. All the articles I read lead to one thing: his tragedy. He was a man out of a Shakespearian tragedy. A Julius Caesar reincarnation, if I daresay call it. Antonio Luna is not JUST another hero in Philippine history, he might have been the greatest one we have.
I am lost for words. Heneral Luna is all I could have asked for, speaking as someone who knows my history. The vivid imagery of the Philippine-American war was perfectly captured and presented wonderfully to the audience. The film is restricted to people ages 13 and above, but I can assure a lot of people that when the time is ripe, their then not old enough kids MUST watch Heneral Luna in all of its glory. This is what historical films are supposed to be. You can sugarcoat it, but not to the point where it did not really happen. Yes, we cannot deny that there are violent scenes in this movie. But what do you expect? It is a war movie and it is a biopic about a general who did everything he could so that his country could finally be free from the bounds of another country. It made us think to ourselves and it has reawakened our slumbering nationalism.
While watching the movie, I was laughing. I was laughing at the sight of war, (spoiler alert) and at the sight of a man without a head. The humor was there at the right places. Everything was where it should be. It was a history nerd’s dream, right off the pages of a history book. Yet, the movie still surprised me, even if I know what will happen next. It might have been scary that time, but every time he speaks about Artikulo Uno, I just smile and say to the characters on screen, “You’re ****ed.” Better obey General Luna, because he knows what he is talking about. But like all good things, it must come to an end.
Once Antonio Luna reached Cabanatuan, I started to get teary-eyed. And when IT all happened at once, I was in my seat crying. I was in tears because what happened on the screen shattered me. I began to doubt my existence, and what I thought about my fellow countrymen. I cried helplessly because I cannot do anything about what was happening on the screen. I cannot deny the fact that the masterpiece unfolding right before my eyes is our nation’s bloody history that has circulated among power, corruption and bribery. I sat there, crying like an infant who has lost everything. Why did they have to do that to him? All the thoughts raced into my brain, whilst the tears ran down my face. I cried for Heneral Luna, I cried for the people I laughed at, I cried because of the unjustifiable reasoning this country has, and I cried over the fact that it was all true. I got out of the cinema with tears still streaming down my face because the words keep on repeating in my head.
“You killed the only real general you had.”
“I did not kill Heneral Luna.”
“No, you did. And you passed on the guilt to us because until now, no one has solved it.” (A thought in my head)
“Antonio Luna is abusive and boisterous.”
“And so is every Filipino politician.” (Again, another thought in my head.)
“What the hell is Aguinaldo’s mother doing in Cabanatuan?” (Again, thought in the head)
Moving on to the more technical aspects of this movie, I would have rated it 4.9 out of 5 stars. But as one who also loves the cinema, this movie came in the perfect form. From the smallest button on an extra’s shirt to the CGI effects, it is clear that they wanted to be precise and accurate. Everyone who was part of this film deserve an award for being so dedicated to the art of filmmaking. This is how a film should be made. I may be stepping down on the other films that my country has produced, but it is true. Now that Heneral Luna is out to the world, people will be expecting more films of higher quality from each and everyone who works in the industry. We don’t need any more movies that revolve around forgettable characters. We NEED more movies like this. I am not talking about history in particular, but about movies that matter and make a difference. IT IS TIME TO UP OUR GAME.
Hats off to Jerrold Tarog and E.A. Rocha for bringing back my faith in the movie industry. And also, the casting was just perfect. John Arcilla is the best actor in my book. No one else could have played Antonio Luna better than him. His performance made me stick to the movie like a glue. I was blown away by it. To add, it was not only his performance but the rest of the cast as well. Their names are up there and each one of them deserves a standing ovation. I hope they push through the 2nd and 3rd movie, which, as Jerrold Tarog has proven, will be good. (Seriously, I love his work. I just did not know that I have been watching it since I was in high school.)
Beautifully done. And it practically captured history as if they traveled back in time. I hope more people support this movie.
Good news for people living in the US: The movie will be released there by October/November this year.
(All images via here, the website for Heneral Luna The Movie)
(This is not a paid review, I am willing to support Heneral Luna and Filipino historical movies.)