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August 2011

Blood Of Eagles

cast: Doni Alamsyah, Ario Bayu, Atiqah Hasiholan, Alex Komanq, and Rahayu Saraswati

directors: Conor Allyn and Yadi Sugandi

101 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Kaleidoscope DVD Region 2

RATING: 6/10
review by James A. Stewart

Blood Of Eagles

First grumble: this is billed as 'an epic war thriller', and perhaps as part of the overall Red & White trilogy it is, but in isolation it is not. At just over an hour and a half it feels a little rushed. Epic is Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings. However, this movie is the middle part of a trilogy and perhaps I have come in cold to the story without appreciating the overall package. Despite my grumble, Blood Of Eagles (aka: Darah garuda - Merah putih II) is a carefully constructed tale of intrigue and conflict that has no small amount of action.

The year is 1947 and the setting is Java during Indonesia's War of Independence. Four young men, each with different ethnic and social backgrounds, are crashed together to launch an ill-advised attack/ rescue attempt on a Dutch prison camp; after the surprise success they are co-opted into the resistance as bona fide guerrilla soldiers. Their first mission is to destroy a Dutch airfield project with a view to crippling the Dutch plans for the area.

This is an Indonesian project and carries English subtitles. There can be no doubt about the politics involved and the anti-Dutch sentiment rages through the story, almost as strong as the pro-Indonesian slant. If this was a point of contention then I just need to look at Braveheart for a more understandable and closer-to-home reason for the bias.

Whatever the rationale, it doesn't detract from the overall fare on show. Blood Of Eagles shows a nation's struggle with colonial oppressors, but also spends time exploring the nation's people and their struggle to find a common cause save for their hatred of the Dutch. The characterisation of the four soldiers and their personal journeys are well thought out and the mix of flashback and dialogue works well to create an understanding of their psyche.

But, it is a war film and there is plenty of bombs, blasts and killing going on and this is where my second and final grumble comes in: the mission and the execution thereof is a bit too 'Americanised' for my liking. Asian cinema usually has it own quirks - be it exaggerated acting or an undercurrent of philosophical trauma - but Blood Of Eagles loses something in its apparent desire to be a more internationally acceptable movie. Alas. Regardless of my gripes this is still a fine movie and no doubt the overall of the package is stronger for the sum of its parts.



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