There’s more to Rod Marmol’s “Mata Tapang” than meets the eye (yep, pun intended). While it may seem a war film on the surface, it leans more towards being a supernatural drama about friendship and brotherhood. Not considering a few cringe-worthy moments, and the wearisome pacing, in hindsight (yep another intended eye pun right there) its interesting premise makes it an entertaining film as a whole.
Sergeant Luis Batobato (Edgar Allan Guzman), Bangks (Aaron Villaflor), Yulo (Miguel Almendras), and Razon (Jerald Napoles) are Marine officers who get ambushed during a military operation. Luis aka “Hardrock” is the lone survivor, but loses his left eye after the encounter. Ironically, losing his eye allowed him to “see” the spirits of his fallen comrades, who needed him to complete their unfinished businesses so that they can find closure and cross to the other side.
Mata Tapang Trailer
Mata Tapang CineFilipino Review
Director Rod Marmol isn’t subtle with the ironies within “Mata Tapang”. When he lost his left eye, Luis essentially gains a “third eye”, allowing him see and speak with the spirits of his dead friends. By losing his sight, he begins to see his friends for who they really are; one of them is struggling with his sexuality, another is experiencing a moral dilemma, and the last is in love with the person Luis would least expect.
It’s a smart and straightforward concept. “Mata Tapang” bravely discusses religion, sexuality, and morality against a military backdrop, albeit too preachy in some moments.
The only problem that I had with the movie, is that it’s hard to empathize with the characters. Maybe it’s because the stakes aren’t convincing and the conflict is predictable, especially with the fact that the trailer already shows pretty much the whole movie. To be fair though, the dynamics of the main characters worked well for the story. Most notable is Aaron Villaflor who, boyish charm and charisma aside, gave a heartfelt performance, turning the movie into Bangks’ story as much as it is Luis’.
Among the CineFilipino 2018 entries, I’d say “Mata Tapang” is a must-see (see what I did there?).