Friday, September 15, 2006

Yoshio Harada, Ryuhei Matsuda, Itsue Itao, Kee, Jun Inoue

EIGA SAI: Contemporary Japanese Film Festival
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

9 Souls

The nine souls in this movie refer to the 9 prisoners in one cell who are incarcerated for various gruesome crimes. The movie though gets rolling once they manage to escape after they accidentally discover a path leading to their freedom. In normal circumstances, they would have gone their separate ways but I hate to think this film is anything but normal. The nine men journey on a road trip together towards a place where a former cellmate buried some 'treasure' in a time capsule. Their main destination is Mt Fuji Elementary School. Along the way, each character is introduced in different cinematic fashion, it captivates your full attention. I believe it is best seen to get my point so I won't venture into a detailed account of the characters.

"Nine Souls" is one of the most unique movies I've watched with a prison break theme. It is fascinating how different emotions surface by just watching a single movie. One moment you are laughing at a scene, the next you are shocked at the graphic violence. Then before you can even recover from the brutal scene, you feel sad over some tragic moment in the next sequence. Of course in a movie with nine characters to grab your attention, you tend to more or less sympathize with at least one of them. For me it was the story of the youngest prisoner, Michiru who was jailed for killing his father. The actor who portrays him has this very haunting look on his face. His facial expressions are as diverse as the languages spoken during a United Nations General Assembly session. Pay close attention to him, he holds the 'key' to the whole movie.

Each characters are well fleshed out yet you don't get all the facts in one go. The director feeds the audience bits and pieces of narratives behind their imprisonment. He chooses to reveal more about one escapee then just a passing glimpse on another character. Each actor (most if not all of whom I have never seen before in any film) who formed the ensemble cast give very good performances. Together as a whole, they clearly made a good effort in acting out a story line which is quirky in some ways yet completely poignant too in other ways.

Cinematography was top notch. We are shown images of rural Japan with an excellent backdrop of Mount Fuji in the distance then weaved through the crowded environs of bustling Tokyo. There were also very good camera angle shots of scenes I never thought was possible in a movie. The amazing fact is that it was all real scenes not computer generated at all. Ok except for the ending but by then you would totally agree that this particular scene merited some help from a computer.

I'm afraid I haven't revealed too much but it is one of the movies that is difficult to review simply because by attempting to write about it, you feel you are not doing justice to the film. So in conclusion, I really recommend this film. It has all the elements you can ask for from a good action movie or wait was it a comedy? You see? I'm not too sure what specific genre it fits into. Only word that comes to my mind is UNIQUE.

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