I remember how disappointed I was in Merah Putih when I watched it in 2009. Considering how the trilogy was touted as grand epic war movie (the first in Indonesia?) in collaboration with some Hollywood names for the special effects and such, incurring big budgets along the way, the end product was a total letdown. Well, the effects were good. There were many shootings, blast-offs, and pools of blood – all of which are featured in the second installment – but beyond the physical violence to chase the Dutch out of homeland there’s nothing much to see.
So, as you could’ve guessed, I had no intention whatsoever to watch the sequels. For a non-episodic series, there was no cliffhanger. MP was only inspired by historical events (if not mistaken) as the characters are all fictitious, thus it isn’t a must-watch movie for the sake of patriotism and nationalism per se. I no longer remember what MP was all about besides many civilians from different backgrounds, ethnicity, and religions coming together to fend for the country’s newly proclaimed independence from the Dutch’s military encroachment. The movie ended with our leads successfully blew up the Dutch’s convoy of fuel stocks.
Nevertheless, I decided to give the second part a go upon noticing that it’d be screened on TV. It was aired at night, many scenes were dark, the plot crept like a snail, and the foreign languages were untranslated. It was long and boring and uninspiring. I have no idea how they’re doing in cinemas (as in whether they successfully attract millions of moviegoers to reach or surpass BEP) but I believe that MP as a whole is clearly overrated. It’s not that I cannot appreciate historical movies, but if the story ain’t engaging, it can’t be helped – neither the great cast nor the visual effects could make up for it.
Onto the plot: tailing where MP left off, the movie kicks off with our heroes’ attempt to free the captives. They then cross path with several other guerilla groups, who suspect them at first but join forces afterwards, while searching for General Sudirman’s troops. Found ‘em, and our heroes’ impressive attacks on the Dutch get Amir to be appointed as a new captain. The team is then given the task to destroy The Dutch’s Air Force in some specified area.
Things continue to fall into the team’s lap pretty easily, thus the glorious accomplishment of the supposedly grueling mission without breaking any leg. Well, some get shot, one gets caught and tortured, but everyone’s smiling at the end. War never seems this unstrained. I mean, they are carrying guns most of the time, but never look wary whilst venturing into the woods. Having a lady in the team doesn’t slow them down either; instead, she walks out of battlefield without a scratch – o.O – while her men comrades are all wounded and bloody.
There are many other plotholes and downsides throughout idk who’s at fault. For weak script, it’s definitely the screenwriter; for inconsistency… the director? The transitions are jerky (or maybe a lot of scenes don’t make the cut through TV censorship), the characters’ mood and emotion aren’t coherent at times (they really look too relaxed for those who are in the middle of war wherein they could get ambushed at any time), and the twists are poorly executed.
Darah Garuda is trying to include many facets of warfare into the setting: schemes plotting, hostages, assaults, betrayal, heroic rescues, and open fire (to name a few) but struggling to make them believable. I had issues with how they’re intertwined into the narration because those raw ideas seem to be thrown sporadically without considering whether they’ll fit into the progression line. E.g., when the traitor was revealed or when the blue of the Dutch flag was removed, they failed to hit the right key to evoke certain emotions in me.
Besides, DG’s attempt to promote unity in diversity, spiritually, turns out to be overpowering as it weighs too much on Islam over other beliefs. Not derogating by any means, but come on~ do you still have time to do your rituals when barrages of bullets are aimed at your head? Lastly, I find it amazing how none of the troops’ bombard of fire hit Amir who was kneeling down in an open area. Also when the team (of non-militants) could repeatedly outsmart the militarily trained Dutchmen.
Verdict: Nothing stands out – not a character, not a scene, not a part. Merah Putih has so much potential to be great but fails to deliver. The packaging looks nice but the inside is missing something essential… heart?
Rating: 2/5 Awarded two stars out of goodwill.
Director: Yadi Sugandi, Conor Allyn
Production: Margate House Film, 2010
Cast: Donny Alamsyah, Lukman Sardi, Darius Sinathrya, T. Rifnu Wikana, Rudi Wowor, Rahayu Saraswati, Atiqah Hasiholan, Aryo Bayu, Aldi Zulfikar
Genre: Action-war, Heroes