- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama, Thriller
There has been a lot of buzz generating around the film ‘1965’, especially when it was first announced that actor Lim Kay Tong will be playing the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
Is it a political movie or a biopic, some ask?
With all the press that the movie is getting, it is no wonder people would get the wrong idea.
‘1965’ is neither of those things. What it is though, is an action-thriller with a romantic side-plot, framed with the historical events of the day.
AN ENGROSSING FILM
Directed by Randy Ang in his sophomore full-length effort after 2014’s police-thriller ‘Re:solve’, ‘1965’ is perhaps his most engrossing work to date.
The story keeps you off-balance (in a good way) by working within history’s margins. Bookended by Singapore’s merger with Malaya and its independence in 1965; the story of the country’s social upheavals and racial tensions are well known but the movie focuses on six individuals who crossed paths amid the turmoil and its unintended consequences.
We are introduced to the movie by trainee police constable Adi (Sezairi) who is also the narrator of the film. When a riot broke out in Geylang, Adi is thrust into a difficult dilemma involving his mother Khatijah (Deanna Yusoff) and his superior, Inspector Cheng (Qi Yuwu).
Qi Yuwu, Sezairi and Deanna Yusoff in '1965'
Meanwhile, Inspector Cheng discovers that his younger brother Seng (James Seah) gets tangled up with unsavoury characters as he struggles to keep the peace.
If one should pick on something from the movie, it would have to be Lim Kay Tong’s Lee Kuan Yew. Although the veteran actor added a modicum of gravitas with his on-point impression of Lee, it still came out short in the grand scheme of things.
While the late Prime Minister was pivotal in the political machinations of that period, the addition of the character doesn’t do much to the plot. The race riots, conspiracy and romance are all enough for the movie to stand on it own.
Not to give ‘1965’ short shrift, the performances are solid throughout. Qi Yuwu effectively plays top cop Cheng. His character is easily the most fleshed-out in the film. Malaysian actress Deanna Yusoff also impressed. Mike Kasem is believable as an intrepid Pakistani reporter on assignment here, but some of his dialogue especially about his character’s opinions on Singapore feels contrived and stagey.
HIGH PRODUCTION VALUES
‘1965’ carefully and expertly weaves action-suspense sequences with meditations on social cohesion. While there are thrills to be had, some of the movie’s points do become too forceful and preachy. It’s not quite high-art but Ang with scribe Andrew Ngin make an effective pot-boiler here.
Lim Kay Tong plays Lee Kuan Yew in '1965'
While they take creative license with real events in order to ratchet up the drama and emotions, the attention paid to authenticity is a treat.
Ang also brings a level of tension to what could have been an overly stuffed historical period piece. It's a sign of real maturity from the filmmaker, and ‘1965’ left us excited to see where he goes from here.
Production and costume designs both deserve high praise for the work they've done here, re-creating a very specific and highly documented time and place.
Likewise, cinematography is key in selling the period and that point in time in Singapore's history.
The film is absolutely overstuffed with details that make the film feel more like it was made then versus that of a period piece.
If anything, '1965' is an effective and entertaining commemorative piece.