- This Manila is Not Paradise 10/10/2013 12:00:00 AM by 3xHCCH
"Metro Manila" is like two films in one. The first hour was about how Oscar Ramirez (Jake Macapagal), a poor farmer from Banaue, decides to bring his wife Mai (Althea Vega) and kids to Manila so he can find a better job so they can escape their poverty. It turns out that Manila is not really the paradise at all that it is cut out to be, as the Ramirez family continues to wallow in abject squalor. The major portion of this first half of the film are the sad images of the "real" Metro Manila with its polluted environment and overpopulation.
The second half of the film is the main crux of the story. Oscar gets a job as a courier of an armored car service, facing danger daily as they transport safety-deposit boxes containing a lot of money and other valuables. He is partnered with the more senior and jaded guard/driver named Douglas Ong (John Arcilla). Ong overly showers Martinez with kindness and generosity. But Oscar will soon find out later that Ong would have favors of questionable integrity to ask of him. As problems of criminal and ethical nature arise, what would Oscar do next?
Jake Macapagal really disappeared into his role as Oscar. It was like he was not acting in his scenes. We deeply feel his frustration and confusion as a father who desperately wants to provide for his family. Althea Vega tends to have a blank look on her face in some of her scenes, but she is much better here than her lead role in "Amor Y Muerte" earlier this year. John Arcilla was over-the-top in his characterization of Ong, and he really exuded that dangerous vibe about him. The tension was so thick when he is around. Ana Abad Santos made an impact even only with her two short scenes as Ong's wife, Dora.
The main plot is simple, about the corruption of the innocent in the wild jungle of the big city, and the film shows it well. I did like its setting of a security/armored car service, which I found to be novel and interesting. The set-up and revelation of the ending was wonderfully written and executed, very effective and poignant. I was expecting this to have English subtitles since I was interested to see how certain words and phrases would be translated, but there was none where I watched it.
As a resident of Metro Manila, I was very excited to see this film made by a foreigner about the city I live in. But upon watching, I admit I was not very happy at the sordid way Manila was depicted in an international film like this, now on its way to potential Oscar glory. It runs counter to all our efforts done to attract tourists to our country. However, I also know that the montage of unflattering scenes about the streets and slums of Manila is unfortunately true and accurate. It may be an incomplete picture of Metro Manila, yet it remains an undeniable reality. This is what British producer/director/writer/cinematographer Sean Ellis saw when he was in Manila, and we have to accept that.
- Sundance 2013 World Dramatic Audience Winner 1/27/2013 12:00:00 AM by Trentflix
Metro Manila won the Audience award for best World Dramatic Competition film at Sundance 2013. This is UK writer/director Sean Ellis's third feature-length film. Set in the Philippines this is a story of a rural farmer, Oscar, who takes his wife and two children to Manila to find employment and a better life. The promises of gainful employment and opportunity however aren't as easily realized and their morals and faith are put to the test. In the Q&A Sean Ellis stated that this plot is a well-tread cliché in the Philippines but here it seems fresh, as is the setting of Manila where we are privy to its desperate slums and seedy underbelly.
Metro Manila is a combination of a family drama, heist movie and crime thriller. There isn't a lot of action but there is always the sense of inevitable violence and danger awaiting our protagonist.
Beyond writing and directing, Sean Ellis also handled the cinematography and operated the Steadicam. The film is shot beautifully with an over the shoulder documentary feel (thankfully not a shaky-cam) which brings you wholly into these characters lives and predicaments. We are constantly trapped in enclosed spaces with Oscar which provides not only intimacy, but complicity in his actions. Oscar Ramirez, played by Jake Macapagal, and his wife Mia, played by Althea Vega, both easily elicit our deepest sympathies. The performances (including our two leads) are lead mainly by native theater actors, the film is very cinematic but they bring a naturalistic presence and their talent on screen is apparent.
Oscar and his wife are devout and have tried honest labor farming. The only job she can find is in a seedy dancing bar and he is lucky to find a job transporting valuables in an armored vehicle which is considered one of the most dangerous jobs as the city is rife with criminals. Soon, he is asked to compromise his morals in the face of being able to provide for his family.
This film is a look at how the poor and disenfranchised are constantly exploited and taken advantage of as well as what greed and desperation can lead to. The sense of poverty and helplessness is palpable and is emotionally staggering. You will feel guilty for complaining about your job and any other first world problems you may have. This is a film that entertains, excites and lets you appreciate and reflect on your own situation.
- Keep with this one...it gets better as it progresses. 3/27/2014 12:00:00 AM by MartinHafer
Metro Manila is not a film for everyone. It's an incredibly tough movie to watch at times and your heart really goes out to the leading characters in the movie. However, if you can make it through all the misery, you'll find that the script is amazingly well written and intelligent.
The film begins with Oscar Ramirez receiving only a pittance for their hard work as rice farmers. It's so little that they see they have only one choice—to travel to the big city to look for work. However, this nice family is constantly screwed during the course of the film—to the point where you wonder if it can get any worse. Their rent money is stolen—and they have no food for themselves or their two small children. Out of desperation, the wife gets a degrading job working in a sleazy bar as a 'hostess'—though she's not much better than a prostitute. Then the husband works all day only to be given a couple sandwiches in payment! Now they have no place to live, practically no food and they are desperate. Only when the man gets a job working as an armored car worker do things start to look up for them. Now, they can live in a nicer and safer home and they finally feel happy. But, based on how things have gone so far, I kept expecting the other shoe to fall. And, fall it did---but in such a creative way that it made the film worthwhile. What exactly happens to these poor people? Well I certainly won't spoil it by telling! However, the ending really took me by surprise—and I love to be surprised.
This movie has a lot going for it. A great reason to watch it is to see just how much of the world lives. This film doesn't give a beautiful look at Manila but shows a desperate town where it's more dog eat dog than anything else. How the family tries to hold on is what makes the film truly exciting to watch. But, as I already said, the film is tough viewing at times. It certainly is NOT a feel-good film and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to see it through to the end. But it IS worth it. It also features some excellent natural acting and it is a well made production and makes me want to see more from these folks.
- a shocking first impression of an unfamiliar city 8/6/2013 12:00:00 AM by pailletq
This film is without doubt a thriller, although the action scenes are kept to a minimum in terms of length (they do remain quite violent).
But what's shocking about it is that it's for most people the first time they're actually going to see or hear about Manila, and in this case they'll be seeing it from the bottom looking up. This film paints a rather dark picture, but a picture worth seeing: the developing world isn't a bed of roses, and things like violence and corruption do make up the everyday lives of its poorer inhabitants.
Therefore, this story is a story of struggle, and is definitively worth seeing, if only to get away from the postcard image that we may have seen of the Philippines.
- Sometime you must risk all when you get a chance. 8/9/2014 12:00:00 AM by Reno-Rangan
An independently produced from both the countries, Phillipines and United Kingdom which was selected to represent Britain at the 2013 Oscars. This crime-thriller is about a family's struggle and involvement in a crime affair. From the director of 'Cashback' another excellent and a different movie. When the movie 'Where God Left His Shoes' meets 'Armored', the 'Metro Manila' forms. But in a better way in every minute detail. With the beautiful dialogues and the performances the story makes you wonder how long it can drag. The value of sacrifice for the sake of the family's survive strikes with the unexpected twist.
A farmer family who failed to harvest in large quantity gets a little value for what they got in the hands. The savings are not enough to invest for the next season. So the whole family, father, mother and two children decide to travel to the capital city to earn money. They struggle to get a place to stay in the threatening Manila city where it is crowded, polluted and illegal activities are soaring high. Being a farmer family, they are the easiest target to get cheated. Both the parents get a decent job till they come to know the reason behind their recruitment. And what comes after is the family's only chance to put a full stop for all the struggles for once.
''You have more chances of seeing an alien than winning the lotto.''
You know what impressed me in this movie, the reality. Everything I saw was like a documentary movie till the last quarter. In the last few minutes I realized that I am watching a movie. That is only because of the awesome twist and turn to end the story on a high note. From beginning to the end the narration was precisely defined about the life in Manila city, especially in the category of below poverty line. The honest was convinced me and so the great end with a line: I too want to save my family, but my plan was never based on a dream. One of the best dramas based on the innocent family. It won't try to convince you with the family sentiments, but stays true and unveils the brutality of the metro city which apply same proportion for any other metros in the world. A rare gem and won't be wrong to say it is a must see.