Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“1957: Hati Malaya”
Billed as one of Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba's best, "Tanda Putera" is a feature film foray into Malaysia's very own history, namely the 13 May 1969 tragedy. The film tells the story of Tun Razak (Rusdi Ramli), Malaysia's second Prime Minister and his exploits, focusing on his friendship with Tun Dr Ismail (Zizan Nin) and his battle with his advancing disease, in the midst of the country's own political and social turmoil.
The first thing that audiences should know is that "Tanda Putera" is marketed as an educational film, with extensive research done in order for the characters and events depicted in the film to be close to the truth. While this may have worked well should the film have been marketed as a documentary as well, Shuhaimi Baba and the rest of the production team have opted to label it as a fictional film as well, with elements of drama, suspense and action. What could have been an excellent cinema verite-styled film ended up being a convoluted mess, with various scenes of momentous occasions such as the initial sparks of the racial wars, Tun Razak's rise to power as the second Prime Minister and the creation of Malaysian Airlines System, mashed unevenly together within the 2-hour running time. For the more patriotic audiences, "Tanda Putera" works, but that is exactly the problem: the film was made for the patriotic. "Tanda Putera" assumes you already buy into Malaysia's eventful and at time tragic history, where countless lives and blood have been shed in order to create the country that it is today, coupled with old footage to provide the film the required authenticity. For everyone else, who perhaps are dragged into watching this, this film holds little else other than the half-baked computer-generated imagery and scripting.
The term 'half-baked' is used to describe "Tanda Putera" because it tries to do everything yet throws in the towel before it does. For example, there are numerous scenes in the film that depicts the violence done by the locals and communists, but these scenes are spattered with numerous cuts that are done not so tastefully that in the end it ends up being implied violence. Coupled with the erratic pacing of the narrative, the violence seems even more senseless and 'out of nowhere'. Although not all films need achieve Quentin Tarantino-level of violence, but considering that the film promotes itself as 'the film to educate audiences on the horrors of the 13 May 1969 Tragedy', its eagerness to please censors for a P13 rating is worthy of a snort. In addition, the frequent use of flashbacks and dream sequences seems a tad unnecessary, not to mention painful to watch because they are so poorly executed. I say necessary because the director has to cram everything into the two hour period, but unnecessary because they could have just made the film longer or stuck to the scenes that they have chosen instead of trying to please everyone by padding out the film. On the other hand, Shuhaimi has incorporated a few satirical touches in her film that will surely bring a smile to locals, such as the jab at Tun Dr. Mahathir.
If there is anything that "Tanda Putera" does well, it is the casting. Rusdi Ramli stars as a despairing yet determined leader who did his best to protect his country. He is the embodiment of the late Tun Razak, from his mannerisms down to his resolve to save Malaysia amid all the unhappy people desperate for a lifeline and his ailing condition. Meanwhile, Zizan Nin is superb as Tun Dr Ismail, his best friend and trusted right hand man, whose condition is also faltering, but nevertheless, he endeavours to hide it as best he could from Tun Razak and trudge on. However, the rest of the cast are not so memorable.
In conclusion, there are incredible performances from the cast all round, particularly Rusdi Ramli as Tun Razak and Zizan Nin as his best friend and aide, Tun Dr Ismail, but the subject matter that "Tanda Putera" eschews is ultimately, a tad too sensitive to make for effective film material.Cinema Online, 19 July 2012