Rating: 2 stars out of 5
The Stars: Henley Hii, Josh Lai, Mark Lee
The Buzz: The last time we had a movie about our days in the army, it did quite well. Could this be Army Daze 2011 with a great sprinkling of horror?
The Story: In 1983, a rumour about a mad woman dying at the exact time of 23:59 and coming back to haunt the soldiers at that same exact time is spreading across a platoon. A timid recruit insists to have seen her. When he dies during a road march, the band of soldiers start to question their beliefs...
inSing.com thinks:23:59 actually started on a great note. The opening scene featured one of Pulau Tekong's most famous tales... and coincidentally, it was one that originated from the very same company and floor this reviewer stayed in! (Hint: It involves a kid and a ball.) It was a great start to the movie and really was a tease at the authenticity Army Daze delivered all those years ago.
Likewise, the cast of characters are an array of archetypes (or stereotypes) any true Singaporean son will be able to identify with: There's the ‘Sabo King’(the one that gets everyone into trouble), the ‘Chao Ah Beng’(self-explanatory), the ‘Sibei Siao On’ (the one who excels at everything), the ‘White Horse’ (the privileged one), the ‘Hokkien Peng’ (literally, Hokkien soldier) and the ‘Ang Moh Pai’ (faux Caucasian) officer. The casting does a great job keeping the performances realistic and is great as a whole, with Mark Lee playing a supporting role as the Platoon Sergeant who is deeply concerned about the paranormal activities that has taken over his men. He reins in the usual slapstick for a more reserved style that is still funny, mainly because of the military setting.
23:59 has a lot going for it. The aforementioned cast as well as the cinematography and effects are top notch. However, the screenplay falls apart. In particular, the environment and the screenplay's failure to adhere to a realistic portrayal of it kill a lot of the suspension of disbelief needed for the plot to work.
At points of the movie, the recruits prowl the camp on their own and even escape into the jungle for exploration with hardly any resistance. This takes you out of the story by quite a bit and killed whatever meaningful backstory the filmmakers were trying to build earlier in the film for the central character. The scares then become a series of random events, seemingly carrying the characters along with them instead of the other way around.