Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Breaking News

2004, Hong Kong, directed by Johnnie To

Perhaps Johnnie To was working, even by his standards, to an especially demanding schedule when making Breaking News, for it's a truly stripped-down affair, with a perfectly-paced 90-minute running time and action that takes place over the course of just a few hours (although it can be confusing to keep track of the various branches of the Hong Kong police that move in and out of the story, the plotting is generally pretty solid as well). To indulges himself with an eye-catching seven-minute opening shot that must have required a great deal of careful choreography, but doesn't relax afterwards: his command of the material is assured throughout, deploying cramped space to great atmosphere-building effect, and marshalling knots of police and reporters in clever formation. The film unspools, for the most part, inside an apartment building where some gangsters have taken a family hostage and in the police command station where the spin doctors are hard at work selling their version of the story to the assembled cameras. While the film is occasionally a touch simplistic in its commentary on the machinations of the media machine, the general point that such manipulations aid little in the construction of a truly participatory democracy is sharply made given the local context. To rarely lingers, though, on such ideas, given the headlong pacing and tightly-constructed action sequences.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States