A series of Accidents
The best cinematography I’ve seen so far at TIFF is at Soi Cheang’s “Accident” last Sunday night. It has to be emphasized how beautiful this film is, satuated in tones of omnious blues and luscious honey browns. Asian films always seem to excel in the use of colors and shadows to evoke a certain mood of sentimentality. There is an innate longing in the shots, a sensitivity, to the corners and cracks of life. There is a certain restraint in the way the story is told, and sometimes I think it can be traced back to the cultural background of the East, which is one that celebrates the restraints of your emotions and a preference for public graces and properness. It doesn’t mean those individuals experience any less emotions, of course, after all they are human. It just means that longing is celebrated and a glance can be threaded through years and generations, and in a strange way I have always loved that about asian cinema, perhaps there is a little bit of that in me.
The TIFF website described the plot so well that I retell it here in its original form: In a brilliantly executed early sequence, a seemingly mundane traffic jam transforms into a meticulously planned set piece. Innocuous little events, lined up like dominoes, gradually fall into place to build up to a deadly conclusion.
The mastermind behind the concept is a group of professional assassins, who commit murders by staging perfect crimes that look like unfortunate accidents. The brain of the operation is played by Louis Koo, who exercises superhuman like discipline and caution in the way he prepares and conducts each “accident.” If you ever get careless, he says to the rest, then one day we may be in an “accident.” Understandable – it’s an unpredictable profession that they are in, after all.
One day, the job that should run perfectly, does not. People die. And the Brain doesn’t believe that it is an accident, but an accident. This propagates a series of steps that led to his stalking of a seemingly ordinary insurance agent, Fong (Richie Jen). The pursuit is relentless and escalates into a heart-wrenching climax.
Left: Louis Koo; Right: Fong Richie Jen
Both the main characters are played by mega movie stars of asia, and even though they barely share the screen together, the tension between them is tightly spung. Koo is riveting in his performance, showcasing the undercurrents of guilt hidden beneath that calm and unflinching exterior. Richie Jen is precise in his portrayal, leaving the audience in the mist of doubt until the very end. To say any more is difficult without spoiling the plot. “Accident” is a fine Hong Kong thriller – some have claimed it’s the best since “Infernal Affairs”. I haven’t seen much since IA, so I can’t fully weight in on that. However, personally I don’t think “Accident” is as riveting as “Infernal Affairs” – its vision not as clear, the plot not as believable, and the two male leads, though good, are not great. But then again, not much can measure up to “Infernal Affairs” in my mind – especially the hollywood remake.
This is a good film nonetheless though. The theme of “accident” is reverberated throughout the film, and the boundary between reality and imagination is blurred. Life is a series of accidents, really, and your every action forms a part of that domino effect. The film also touches on the philosophy of karma, and the saying “what goes around comes around” is evident.
If you are into the HK thriller genre, it’s a must see.