Metro Manila - Blu-ray Review

'the pretty obvious 'its a tough world' imagery provided throughout does little to elevate it'

The UK's entry to 2014's Foreign Language Oscar, it's not greatly surprising that Metro Manila made it no further than the long list submission stage. Whilst it proves to be just about a serviceable slice of Thriller, this never feels like Oscar material and the pretty obvious 'its a tough world' imagery provided throughout does little to elevate it.

Starting in the splendour of Manila's countryside, director Sean Ellis shows he's not interested in beautiful vistas early with close-ups that follow lead Jake Macapagal and his on-screen family rather than looking further afield. Once they arrive in the city, having abandoned a low wage life in the countryside for the same on an urban basis, things stay close and the claustrophobia feels more intense.

At this point though, Ellis' film stalls in a really odd manner. Metro Manila is one hundred and fifteen minutes where really its simple story has no business being any more than around ninety. Oscar (Macapagal) and family spend a long time getting nowhere in the city, as Ellis delays the plot (Oscar eventually finds work as the driver of a armoured truck and must reconcile work commitments, 'opportunities' and family) and searches for something for his film to say. There's a hint of a thread about Oscar's wife, Mai (Althea Vega, who is extremely impressive) and her experience of various levels of sexism in typically feminine careers, whilst Oscar goes down the macho route. There's then the 'harsh world' symbolism, most obviously brought to life by a scene involving a cat, which offers nothing whatsoever to the rest of the film.

Eventually the final third arrives and it looks like Ellis will follow something taut and tense, as Oscar is pushed towards a conclusion that feels tragedy-ready. Instead, the director drains a lot of the tension from Metro Manila and offers instead a fairly flat ending, that never pulls at you as much as you want it to. Oscar, supposedly an ex member of a special army squadron, consistently feels too wet to root for, manipulated by a variety of characters, as Ellis plays up his country bumpkin characteristics when it suits him. The end result is a Thriller with not much thrill, anchored by a 'hero' with little pull. It may be a tough world out there, but that isn't enough to base a full narrative around.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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