A Movie Review
By Marivir R. Montebon
Heneral Luna is a must see, a must see, because how often are we treated to sumptuous and monumental movies that confront our values and identity as a people and as individuals? Very rarely.
New York City — Having dinner with actor Epy Quizon in Kuma Inn, along with members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, aside from being extremely fun and highly gastronomic, had a special meaning.
First, the conversation with Epy, who reminded me so much of his father, the iconic comedian Dolphy, bolstered my resolve to watch a movie first thing in the morning for the first time, tomorrow at the AMC Empire on Times Square.
It is not just any movie, but the highly acclaimed Heneral Luna, where Epy plays as Apolinario Mabini, known as the brains of the Katipunan, the revolutionary society that waged war against Spain and America. I would make the movie exceed one more ticket way above its break even of P240M ($4.7M).
I already saw Heneral Luna at the Magnum Review Room, for press review, with the theater all to myself last Monday. But I want to watch it again. The movie is the newest gem in Philippine cinema, and a rare masterpiece like Rizal (Cesar Montano starrer, 1998) and Sakay (with Julio Diaz, 1993). Heneral Luna is a must see, a must see, because how often are we treated to sumptuous and monumental movies that confront our values and identity as a people and as individuals? Very rarely.
Directed by Jerrold Tarog and written by E.A. Rocha and Henry Hunt Francia, Heneral Luna has both historical and aesthetic value. It is based on historical facts and the imaginary segments added into the film did not alter anything that has been noted in the annals of history.
Actor John Arcilla is in his best element here. Depicting Luna, known as the disciplined and strict commander in chief of the fledgling Philipine army who won against Spain and struggled against America, Arcilla is amazing. He has this infectious ability to create sympathy, fear, humor, anger, and pity until he was brutally murdered.
Arcilla is invinsible in his portrayal of Luna as a dedicated military chief despite the repeated imputations of him being ‘arrogant’. Nope, Luna simply acted based on his dedication to his job and for the love of his country. Arcilla convincingly delivered that.
Among the highlights of the movie are the scenes on how Luna and American apologists Felipe Buencamino (Noli Buencamino) and Pedro Paterno (Leo Martinez), atrociously insult each other as America begins to invade Manila.
Epy Quizon approximated Mabini as serene, striking, and always on point, in the midst of the explosive exchanges of the Cabinet members. “If half of your body is immobile, there has to be that kind of internal struggle in you to be courageous and serene,” said Epy in studying the Mabini character.
The Philippine flag gradually eaten by fire towards the end of the movie was artistically symbolic of a nation’s transition to a new colonizer.
I would have wanted the movie to end with the words of Mabini, who indicted Aguinaldo so sharply, without qualms in his own words, as the cause of the failure of the Philippine revolution, for having authored the deaths of dedicated men like Bonifacio and Luna whom he saw as threats to his leadership.
If Heneral Luna hits the blockbuster mark here, John Arcilla could merit a nomination for best actor at the Academy Awards. That is my hopeful thought. On the other hand, I doubt that will happen despite the amazing talent, because America is not the good guy in this film. But…who knows?
See you in the theater.