When Oscar (Macagal) moves to what is known as Metro Manila with his wife and two children they enter the fray with eyes firmly blinkered and unaware of the treachery lurking around every corner. They very quickly find themselves without money or a place to live until they wander into an unused slum. Oscar does find work as an armoured car driver but it is a dangerous profession with a high mortality rate and is openly referred to as the “Wild West” by his new boss and partner Ong (Arcilla) With Mai (Vega) taking a job in the wrong kind of bar they quickly find themselves with more moral conundrums than they can handle and it isn’t long before the wheels really start to come off.”
English director Ellis really went out on a limb on this as he went to a country where he did not speak the language and managed to craft an unoriginal yet surprisingly riveting piece. The story takes its time to get from family drama to high pace heist movie but it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile. It is the simple things like Oscar becoming indebted to his boss and falling prey to his new found wealth and friends that allow the audience to get inside the characters. In one particularly saddening scene Oscar drinks with his workmates as Mai degrades herself in the bar. Put simply, it’s tragic.
The score is thoroughly enjoyable as Ellis mixes beautiful Asian music with the hustle and bustle of Manila. There is always an overriding feeling that Manila is alive, that it has it’s own heartbeat and that it’s inhabitants are merely along for the ride. The cinematography is also something to behold with the beautiful on location shots of the Northern Philippines and the tight tense shots of Manila sucking the audience in even further.
Bringing it all together are three wonderful performances by Macagal, Vega and Arcilla. You get to know their characters in depth and can do nothing bar look on in horror as they affect one another’s chances of survival. When it comes down to it you will be praying for Oscar to do whatever is necessary to save himself and his family.
Taking a very simple premise and crafting it into something so riveting makes Metro Manila a film that you can not afford to miss.