MANILA, Philippines – To simply describe 10,000 Hours as an action film would be to lump it among the many other films of Robin Padilla’s career. But despite the film’s many imperfections, it’s difficult not to commend it for the message it hopes to convey.
Directed by Joyce Bernal, 10,000 Hours is an ambitious action drama that is more often the latter than the former. While it spreads itself too thin at times, it is a film that is not often seen in mainstream cinema.
Senator Gabriel Alcaraz (Robin Padilla) is a man of principle. But when he threatens to go public with a conspiracy that aims to topple the country’s administration, he is framed for murder by the very government he serves. Alcaraz is forced to leave his family and escape abroad. But as he is hunted down by his old friend Dante Cristobal (Michael de Mesa), Alcaraz realizes that his only means of clearing his name is by exposing the truth.
A matter of truth
Though admittedly inspired by the life of former Senator Panfilo Lacson, 10,000 Hours is a film best seen without assuming a Lacson agenda. The characters and events are works of fiction and have been fabricated to serve the story’s unraveling and often heightened drama.
As Alcaraz relentlessly pursues the truth, he does so at the expense of his family. While the film is marred by regular slips into melodrama, it is the story’s subtler moments that take center stage. In a small yet powerfully poignant moment with his family, Alcaraz learns that he has been framed for murder. He knows that escape is his only option, and instead of saying goodbye to his family, he reminds them of their duties.
There are no tears. No speeches. Just decisive, affirmative action.
It’s the kind of action that supercedes whatever fists and bullets the film can hope to provide. It’s also the kind of action our own country desperately needs.
It’s initially off-putting to see action star Robin Padilla as a well-meaning senator. It’s a remarkable contrast from his usual thuggish roles and often proves to be a distraction whenever Padilla slips back into his action-hero persona.
But the real suspension of disbelief here isn’t with Padilla. It’s the film’s unbelievable proposition that senators can be physically fit, disarmingly good-looking, and also flawlessly righteous. While it would be easy to criticize the film for holding our politicians to such high standard, it’s also a telling reminder that we may be holding our politicians to such low ones.
10,000 Hours admittedly suffers from a glaring amount of escapism, but it’s also a disheartening reminder that the only kind of politician fighting for truth is the kind born from fiction.
It is the film’s ambition that is ultimately its greatest strength and most evident weakness. Despite its many uneccesary complexities, the film tells an incredibly simple story about a fugitive forced to choose between the truth and his family. Unfortunately, the film tends to meander as its many side stories take over it’s main plot.
While the overall film is provided richness by these side stories, it’s inability to focus on just one or two eventually rob the story of any lasting emotional impact. This isn’t helped by the fact that Alcaraz spends most of the film in hiding. For a man obsessed with exposing the truth, it’s surprising to see him waiting for the truth to expose itself.
10,000 Hours often stumbles with its pacing simply because it focuses on too much. But the many threads woven into 10,000 Hours are admittedly enough to create a half-dozen more films well on their own.
10,000 Hours is more of a reminder than a message. Though the film is often too idealistic to be believed, it ends with a heavy-handed wake-up call for its audience. Our government doesn’t give its citizens a happy ending. The truth is still covered-up, and despite our country’s many heroes, it’s still the villains that hold power.
But maybe it’s about time that we hold our politicians to a higher standard. While it would be remiss to think that Robin Padilla deserves a place in the Senate, his character, Senator Alcaraz, would do well to serve our country.
“Masyado tayong magaling magsinungaling para malaman ang katotohanan.” (We are too skilled in lying to know the truth.)
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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