out of Five
Running time: 114
Metro Manila is an intense and emotionally gripping crime drama with a powerful narrative, arresting cinematography and some truly impressive performances from its cast, and Jake Macapagal in particular.
What’s it all about?
Written and directed by the Oscar-nominated Sean Ellis, Metro Manila stars Jake Macapagal as Oscar Ramirez, a family man who’s struggling to make ends meet in the northern Philippines, along with his wife Mai (Althea Vega) and their two young daughters. When their struggles reach a low, the young couple realise that the only way to escape their impoverished life is by moving to the megacity of Metro Manila, where the promise of work and a brighter future await. Upon arriving, Oscar catches a lucky break and begins working for an armoured truck company alongside Ong (John Arcilla), a senior officer, who takes him under his wing and showers him with intense generosity. However, it quickly becomes clear that Ong’s kindness and good deeds expect something in return and Oscar soon finds himself in a lethal situation that tests both his morals and desperation for a better life.
Metro Manila is an engaging and compelling drama with a fantastic blend of crime, drama, romance and emotion. Each of the characters are well-developed and well brought to life and the insistence of the film’s British writer, director, cinematographer and co-producer, Sean Ellis, to shoot the film in the local Tagalog language is credible and inspiring. A particular scene highlight is when the family actually arrive in Manila; it’s an intense and colossal moment for them and Ellis commendably acknowledges this with a memorable sequence of the family meeting their new city, perfectly setting up the notion that Metro Manila will be one thrilling and poignant viewing experience.
What is perhaps most striking about Metro Manila is Jake Macapagal’s outstanding performance. Playing the honourable and moralistic lead character of Oscar, Macapagal is incredibly likeable, endearing and convincing throughout, proving his undeniable talent of portraying a wide range of emotions with a unique flair and subtlety. John Arcilla also impresses as Ong and as a result, the on-screen friendship, or brotherhood if you like, of the two lead characters is essentially believable and authentic. Finally, Sean Ellis certainly proves himself as one exceptionally talented filmmaker with his strong, effective script, fantastic direction and striking cinematography that makes his film wholly arresting and intensely beautiful to look at.
Metro Manila is an emotional, nail-biting experience that will take you by surprise and reduce you to tears. Thanks to Sean Ellis’ powerful visuals and extraordinary direction and the entire cast’s fantastic performances, Metro Manila is not to be missed.