Movie Review

Heneral Luna: If You’re Filipino, You Should Watch This

Heneral Luna review

What probably makes Heneral Luna a great movie is the fact that it does not attempt to make a saint out of the hero.

Malupit siya, abusado, mayabang!

This is what Felipe Buencamino says at the end of the movie, obviously referring to General Antonio Luna. And in the most twisted way, despite the bitter taste of the general’s assassination, you couldn’t really disagree with Buencamino. General Luna can be cruel, vulgar, and controlled by pride. The movie doesn’t fail to show Luna’s humanity. It shows Luna as a ruthless leader, a loyal friend, a charming lover, and an obedient son. But more importantly, it also doesn’t fail to show the core of his humanity: his love for his country.

As much as I would want this to be a formal review, I cannot reduce my thoughts to something so structured. It’s been hours since I saw the film (long overdue since I should have watched it during its first week but I never had the time), and I still can’t stop thinking about it. But it’s not because it has the makings of a classic. It’s not because of the cinematography and the actors’ brilliant acting. No, it’s not even about Luna’s heroism and tragedy.

What makes the film so unnerving for me is that, if you think about it, most of us are more similar to Paterno, Mascardo, Buencamino, and Janolino than we are to Luna. In times of desperation, such as war, it is a lot easier to favour our businesses, families, and personal interests rather than do what is right. It is so much easier to stay quiet than fight.

Heneral Luna review

When watching the film, many of us are bound to hate the villains (we know who they are). Because of our natural sense of righteousness, the horrific death of General Luna doesn’t sit well with us.

But then again, if we had another Luna in our midst, would we agree with his callous ways? Would we be comfortable with his way of discipline and control? Would we hate him for his guts? Would we avenge our bruised pride by executing the abusado? Would we, like Buencamino, justify his death by thinking he deserves it?

Unfortunately, the film portrays not only the humanity of General Luna but also the humanity of the villains. The film has successfully avoided vilifying them (or at least, that’s how I perceived it). It made me think of how possible it is to be like a modern day Buencamino or Janolino — or a modern day Aguinaldo — which is actually much easier than be like a modern day Luna.

Unfortunately, in the same way that Luna was not portrayed to be a saint, the men who ultimately killed him, if you think about it, were also portrayed to be acting on the basis of humanity. It goes against our very nature to forgive and forget. Yes, it is the right thing, but it can be impossible to do. It is difficult to choose the high road and not avenge your pride when given the chance. We may not admit it now, but if someone calls your child a coward or humiliates you in public, how would you react? Wouldn’t you, honestly, be thirsting for revenge, too?

This is in no way a justification of their actions but an attempt to understand the frailty of our humanity and how flawed human nature is. Giving in to this human nature is exactly what sealed Luna’s, Buencamino’s, Janolino’s, and Aguinaldo’s fates.

And being able to portray this is what makes Heneral Luna the best of its kind.

Observations:

  • Every actor — from John Arcilla down to the unnamed extras — in this film is brilliant.
  • Director Jerrold Tarog is a genius.
  • The theatre we were in was almost packed. There is hope for the Philippine cinema.
  • During the last 15 minutes of the film, save for the occasional curses from the gentlemen in the crowd, the whole theatre was so deathly quiet, you could hear a pin drop.
  • And when the film has finally ended, the crowd erupted into a spontaneous applause.
  • I just realised my friends and I weren’t able to take a picture of ourselves during the entire movie date, not before, not after. I guess the film doesn’t deserve a “selfie.” It deserves serious contemplation.
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16 Comments

  • Reply Neri Ann September 21, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I read a lot of good reviews about this film. I should really watch it. And I love the way you describe it. You review the film but didn’t divulge so much information. Thanks for this.

    nhengswonderland.blogspot.com
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  • Reply Mhaan Arambulo-Delos Santos September 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I don’t usually watch Tagalog films but with your reviews, I think I have to watch it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  • Reply edel September 22, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I also have mix-emotions after watching the movie. But then, I’m sure that I dislike Aguinaldo more … imagine, Bonifacio and Luna … so sad 🙁
    edel recently posted…Leonardo’s LechonMy Profile

  • Reply Janice September 22, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I rarely watch Tagalog movies, except for the indie ones. And this one looks like a real must-see. I hope I get to watch it soon.
    Janice recently posted…Explosive New TV Series, LIMITLESS, Airs on September 23 on RTL CBS Entertainment HDMy Profile

  • Reply Badet Siazon September 22, 2015 at 10:33 am

    I hope I can still get the chance to watch this film… I’ve been seeing nothing but praises with this film. You’re right, there is hope with our Philippine cinema.
    Badet Siazon recently posted…Ebenezeer’s Kebabs and Pizzeria at Prat Avenue, TSTMy Profile

  • Reply Melisa Sanchez September 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Your reviews about this movie encourage me to watch it. Sana sana mapanood ko to.
    Melisa Sanchez recently posted…WHY SO ACTIVE BABY?My Profile

  • Reply MommyMinutesManila September 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    The hubby and I have yet to watch this–and it’s definitely on my to-do list for the day that our yaya comes back from vacation! Hopefully, it’s still showing by then!

    Thanks for not putting any spoilers! 😉

  • Reply Kati Balayan September 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Have yet to see it and I’ve heard nothing but raves about this movie and to think that it’s our official entry to the 2016 Oscars (Best Foreign Language Film Cat.)! There is still hope indeed for the Philippine cinema.
    Kati Balayan recently posted…Mommy Travels: Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa, AntipoloMy Profile

  • Reply Louisa September 22, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    We are also wanting to watch this movie. My kids actually asked if we could. Maybe this weekend.
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  • Reply laineyloveslife September 22, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Yes, you’re right when you said there’s hope for Philippine cinema! I’m a communications grad and I’ve watched many art film in my life. I’m really happy that we have films like this. Heneral Luna is Philippines’ entry to the 2016 Oscar Awards.
    laineyloveslife recently posted…#PositivelyBetter Womanhood with Jeunesse AnionMy Profile

  • Reply Rose Angelie September 23, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Many of my FB friends have shared posts about this movie and this post makes me want to watch it more. I was supposed to see this movie last Monday but unfortunately had to cancel because the weather was really bad.
    Rose Angelie recently posted…She Rocks Dirty B Streetwear TeeMy Profile

  • Reply MrsMartinez September 24, 2015 at 10:46 am

    i think I am the only person left who was not able to watch the movie yet. Hopefully, I can watch it within the week.

    xoxo
    MrsMartinez

  • Reply edelweiza September 30, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Very well said, Maan. It’s really a must-see film. I hope I could still watch it this week. 🙂

  • Reply Tetcha Figuerres October 6, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve heard so many good reviews about this movie, and I really want to watch it. I haven’t done so, unfortunately.
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  • Reply jared's mum October 13, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    am I the only one who has not seen this film yet? mum problems ~ if the kid won’t be allowed to see the film, the mum cannot go + see it. but i have read a lot of raves about this movie. i must catch it one way or another!
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  • Reply Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen October 14, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I haven’t seen Heneral Luna yet. we can’t go to the cinema because we have a baby with us. I’ll wait na lang for a copy to be available.
    Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen recently posted…Arroz Ala CubanaMy Profile

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