‘Ang Misyon: A Marawi Siege Story’ review: Mixed meanings
At the end of Ceasar Soriano’s Ang Misyon: A Marawi Siege Story, a young soldier (Juan Miguel Soriano) laments the fate of Marawi and the number of lives that have been lost, seeing how it is not impossible for Filipinos of different religions to live side by side in peace.
It’s a nobly intentioned message, one that could have used a better and more thought out film to support it. (Rappler Talk Entertainment: Martin Escudero, Caesar Soriano for 'Ang Misyon')
Ang Misyon opens with government troops clearing the deserted streets of Marawi of remaining rebels.
Director Soriano stages the sequence like a scene straight out of an action film, except that, very early in the film, the audience barely has any idea of who the characters are, forcing it to treat the combatants, whether they be uniformed soldiers or Muslim fighters, as either protagonists or villains. The supposedly stirring sequence seems meant to engage the audience and to grab their attention but the effect however is more indicative of the drabness and unfortunate shallowness that are yet to come.
In any case, the government troops succeed in killing who they deem needs to be killed, triggering a flurry of flashbacks that introduce the back stories and also the titular missions of the film’s two main characters, the young soldier played by Soriano and Sajid (Martin Escudero), the Muslim nurse who also turns out to be a terrorist sympathizer.
Clearly, the film wants a fair coverage of both sides of the war.
However, Dave Cecilio’s meandering screenplay favors Sajid’s story, which is understandable because his backstory provides a certain semblance of moral complexity. Unfortunately, the approach is simplistic, with the character’s narrative teetering towards melodrama with personal traumas and all sorts of strife being fleshed out rather than carving nuanced motivations out of the character’s decision to live his entire life dedicated to an extremist cause.
With such a conveniently banal storyline for its Muslim main character, the film often crosses the line, relying on the same stereotypes about Islam that it endeavors to break.
Ang Misyon is also ridden with unbelievably horrid performances.
Escudero’s portrayal of Sajid is as subtle as a wrecking ball swinging towards a concrete wall. In Jade Castro’s Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (2011), the actor shifts from barrio boy-next-door to a flamboyantly effeminate diva with expert ease. However, his turn in the film as a nurse with sinister motives is rife with unspectacular obviousness. His goofy villainy is off-putting, betraying whatever aim director Soriano has in documenting his change of heart. All the other actors and actresses share the same strange affinity for either ham or wood when it comes to their performances.
Least of its problems
The quality of the filmmaking of Ang Misyon however is the least of its problems.
The film’s intentions just do not jive with its poorly constructed and insensitively conceived narrative. Soriano, who is a renowned journalist, is evidently ill-equipped to mold evocative fiction out of his profound experiences.
Ang Misyon is a jarring mess. It is a magnanimously motivated mistake. –Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.
Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.