Mission, The

Mission, The

Rating: 7/10
Year: 1999
Genre: Action
Director: Johnnie To
Cast: Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Roy Cheung, Jacky Lui, Lam Suet, Simon Yam

The Mission is a masculine film. No heterosexual romance, no woman. It is all about men and guns. To me, it is also a tribute to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Five killers, Roy (Francis Ng), Shin (Jacky Lui), Curtis (Anthony Wong), Mike (Roy Cheung) and James (Lam Suet), are employed by a crime boss Lung (Eddy Ko) who almost got killed in an assassination attempt. Their job is to seek out the enemy of Lung. The tension and the danger of this mission bring the men closer to each other. When the mission is over, their friendship is put to another test. One of them has an affair with Lung's wife and Lung orders this guy to be killed. How will they find a resolve eventually?

As Johhnie To onced revealed in an interview, he is a great admirer of Akira Kurosawa. It is obvious that he has showed his admiration and respect in this film. Starting from the beginning, the handwritten credit already reminds us of Kurosawa's films, especially Seven Samurai. If you have seen Seven Samurai, you will probably remember the opening credit which is composed of powerful handwritings. In terms of the technical aspects, Kurosawa's trademarks like the use of wipe and fast-paced editing are widely employed in this film. The composition also exhibits notable reference from Seven Samurai. Kurosawa loves to use long shots in group conversation scenes. He intends to capture the different reactions of all the actors on the screen at the same time. This kind of long shot greatly enhances the interaction among the actors since they are actually looking at the reactions of the other actors when they are presenting the dialogues; on the other hand, it also allows the viewers to have a more comprehensive view of the scene, since they can choose whose face or reaction to focus on. In The Mission, there are many conversation scenes among the five killers. In most of these scenes, Johnnie To employs a long shot and as a result, the specific reactions of the five guys are all captured on the frame at once. The viewers can have a better understanding of what the characters think by observing their respective facial expressions.

Although it is not a "save the farmers from the bandit" story, The premises of both films are basically the same. Five killers (seven samurai) are hired to protect the vulnerable crime boss (farmers), there is a love affair between the youngest killer and the boss's wife (love affair between the youngest samurai and a farmer's daughter). But Johnnie To did not merely copy everything from Seven Samurai, he added his own touch and turned it into a romantic film. By "romance" I do not mean the killers are having any homosexual love affairs, what I like is the male bond developed among the five killers during the mission. It is a solid depiction about a partnership of trust and support among five men, and it is a trademark of Johnnie To's heroic series, for instance, the intimate bond between Lau Ching-wan and Leon Lai in A Hero Never Dies is remarkably captivating.

To many people, The Mission might not be a very entertaining flick. Not a single character in the film is hightlighted, they operate and function as a group instead. Without any glamorous personality or commercial plot, what this film presents us is the essence of pure cinema, an exploration of the boundary of the cinematic language itself.

DVD (HK version) - The image and sound are both decent, while the subtitles are sometimes not easy to read. Special features include chapter selection, official trailer, cast and crew information and an additional trailer of another film. It is one of Johnnie To's best, get the DVD now!

Cool guy(s) - Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Lam Suet

Reviewed by: Kantorates