Overheard 窃听风云 (2009)
A police espionage team is recruited to listen in on a wealthy businessman and his investment decisions. Tired and overworked, the team lose focus on their task. A member of the team catches in on a case hint, and they listen in on a secret company detail (to then bet on stock investments; for winning big). All the while, their employer grows suspicious of holding information.
The plot is a retelling of the listening type, using snippets of narrative direction from Francis Ford Coppola\’s The Conversation and Brian De Palma\’s Blow Out to add new depth and evoke a different gutural response from those watching. Directors Felix Chong & Alan Mak have crafted a nice slippery slope for their characters to climb, as the energy is always present. It makes for a complex gift giving of new ideas on cinematic espionage, however subtle and seemingly unimportant.
It is not a turn of the century arc de triomphe, a grand testament to the genre. But it does work to add changes in tone and theme, a gesture for nonconformity. In the film world, that\’s huge, and it deserves credit where credit is due.
The characters are easily relatable, each showing individual struggles outward, team mates too busy to care outwardly. Some have family issues. One scene in particular shows us a sadly worn out member at the end of his ropes, his son with cancer, and he is up for a physical. He knows he cannot afford the medical bills, and the stakes for abusing his power to listen heighten.
All of them, their time spent with surveillance & reconnaissance are taken away from the comfortable, leaving for expected bouts of anger and frustration. Grown men made vulnerable boys. They work to protect a system that has forgetten their struggles, trusting one another as much as they can, but their long nights turn them into inconsistent working men, making that choice, the one to not mess up, a difficult one.
That change in them forces a split, and the movie really takes it into gear, revving up quickly to a frenzied last third. They cannot let out whatever it is that has happened, and you have to watch.
The use of props and scenery also add to their performances, showing a technically capable force of police members, but, ultimately, the scenes become stale later. The rev up in plot make up for this, but I would have liked a more developed change of pace. It\’s consistent, but, perhaps, it shouldn\’t be, as the ending already throws for the unexpected and changes it all quite a bit.
I like that this film recognizes audience awareness, hinting at espionage expectation, leading us to believe the stakes are lower than they are.. Also, the directors and writers give great detail to character backgrounds, adding layers of complementary bodywork, tics and mannerisms, that nicely occupy the frame.
Exposures are rather plain, the cinematography not too fanciful. Rather stale in the camera art really. Colors are brightly brown most of all the scenes. I was really hoping for more development on visual themes, but none came to fruition, though I did like the film’s many slanted, far off shots, made to suggest the team were also under surveillance. Nice, but more could have been added is all.
Give more elaborate resolution, a fuller opened door what we get. I liked it, but suggest it from early on. Give a macguffin. Something. Perhaps it is a rapid film, and I\’m a slow learner, but I needed more information to take it into fuller appreciation, observation and love. Overall though, the turn toward the end was well deserved, and the film deserves a watch.
There is a sequel to it too, and a third one is already in post production. I will definitely see them.