Movie Review: Heneral Luna

(Revised October 2, 2015. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)

The “Heneral Luna” movie poster. Photo courtesy of Artikulo Uno.

I just got to see the movie “Heneral Luna”, [1] and it is absolutely fantastic, a true masterpiece. To me it is not only the best local movie of the year, but one of the best movies of the year anywhere. The film didn’t do well initially at the Box Office, by the end of its first week of run the number of cinemas showing it was cut by half so there was a call for people to watch it and keep it in the theaters. But after that slow start the movie started gaining traction mainly by virtue of word of mouth and Social Media, [2] so much so that by the time I watched it on its third week of release, the theater was still FULL or almost sold out.

’A Well-Made Film’
There is a lot to like about this film, first is its excellent Production Values, from the well-made period costumes, to the quality of the film and the cinematography of the movie, it is all comparable to any Hollywood films out there right now. They even did some aerial Drone shots that contributed a lot to the movie’s fantastic visuals.

The storytelling is also excellent, almost never a dull moment in the entire film. The Director Jerrold Tarog was able to convey the ideas well so you get to easily understand and learn more about our history but at the same time it is also very entertaining with some humor incorporated into the movie every now and then, like the one involving Luna being proficient in French and Spanish but not English, which led to a comedic moment when he went out to apprehend an American.

Most of the major characters were very well acted, but the ones that made the most impression to me were first of course John Arcilla as Antonio Luna, he really captured the essence of what Luna would’ve been like: Intense, Uncompromising and a Strict Disciplinarian, but at the same time also very Smart and Charismatic. Epy Quizon also stood out with his natural portrayal of a brilliant Apolinario Mabini, the “Brains of the Revolution” and close Adviser of Aguinaldo. Mon Confiado was memorable as the relatively quiet and mostly subdued but scheming Emilio Aguinaldo, and he even looked a lot like him.

My favorite scene is probably when just before he was assassinated, Luna reminisced with his mother about his past, like his education in Europe, his founding of “La Solidaridad” and the death of Jose Rizal which inspired him to take arms. Instead of presenting these in a boring narration or the usual flashback, the Director showed it in sort of abstract way, the most poignant of which was with Rizal narrating his “Mi Ultimo Adios” as he was being led to his execution. Very MTV, very contemporary. The movie also had fantastic symbolism, especially with its ending, with Luna reciting the poem that he made and then with a Philippine Flag hung vertically and slowly being consumed by fire.

’Navy Ship’
It’s just too bad that there already is an active Navy ship named after the General, the PG-141 BRP Gen. Antonio Luna.[3] I thought that with his newly rediscovered popularity, it would’ve been great if we could name the next Hamilton Cutter after him, or (better still) if we could name the lead ship of the new Frigates we are buying after him so they will then be called as the “Gen. Antonio Luna class Frigates”.

The BRP Luna is the second of only two ships in the Aguinaldo class of Patrol boats. It is a relatively small ship weighing only around 280 tons, and armed only with World War Two era minor caliber cannons. It’s ironic though that the Luna’s ship got to be in the same class of ships named after the person suspected to be complicit in his assassination.

It may still be possible reassign the name of Luna to another ship, but then again that might mess up too much with the current naval traditions that are already in place. At any rate, we will likely just have to wait a couple more decades before we can assign the General’s name to a bigger and better ship.

’Parting Shot’
The only thing I didn’t like about the movie is that it is not entirely accurate, I think they took a little bit too much liberty in terms of the historical accuracy of the movie, hence people should remember not to take everything that the movie says as a substitute for the actual historical facts. For example, Luna was shown to have submitted his resignation to Aguinaldo later in the movie and with Aguinaldo denying it, but the truth was that Luna did resign and Aguinaldo did accept it, but Luna himself later went back to Aguinaldo after only a couple of weeks to ask for his old job back and was promptly reinstated.[4] So again, make sure to READ more about the characters after you’ve seen the movie and not just take the movie’s word for it.

Despite its shortcoming, “Heneral Luna” is a VERY, very entertaining movie, one that is worthy of our patronage. In fact, since it is so well made and gives such a great insight into our history that I think it is the DUTY of every Filipino to go and watch this movie. So if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside P200-300 (about half for Students up to Sep. 30, 2015), and then go to the cinema to watch it for General Luna. With its commercial success, we can hope to see more movies of this quality about our history. I almost guarantee that you will enjoy it, or at least I hope you will as much as I did. This is definitely going into my video collection as soon as they release it in DVD or Blu-Ray.

PG-141 BRP Gen. Antonio Luna, an Aguinaldo class Patrol Boat of the Philippine Navy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
PG-141 BRP Gen. Antonio Luna, an Aguinaldo class Patrol Boat of the Philippine Navy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SOURCES:

^[1] The official “Heneral Luna” movie website,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160304094438/http://henerallunathemovie.com/

^[2] Netizens: Keep ‘Luna’ in cinemas,
https://web.archive.org/web/20151222140449/http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2015/09/17/1500719/netizens-keep-luna-cinemas

^[3] BRP Gen. Antonio Luna (PG-141),
https://web.archive.org/web/20141203204611/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRP_Gen._Antonio_Luna_(PG-141)

^[4] Antonio Luna, the Fiery but Brilliant Leader,
https://web.archive.org/web/20140908053505/http://www.academia.edu/4517281/Antonio_Luna

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Revision History:
(1) September 30, 2015: Originally posted.
(2) October 2, 2015: Corrected description of Mabini to “Brains of the Revolution”; Added reference to Luna’s resignation; Made minor editorial changes.

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