Criticism

2020 – A Movie Review

Genre: Horror, Suspense, Thriller, Drama, Action, and anything else you can think of.

Synopsis:

The first quarter of 2020 – after a devastating virus outbreak, the Philippines, together with the world, is placed under a state of emergency ordering citizens to stay at home for an undetermined period.

Overwhelmingly unsettling—2020 is one of those rare films you shouldn’t dare re-watch, as it may trigger a paroxysm of rage, frustration, and all other agonizing sentiments in you. 

The movie unfolds with a report on a virus named COVID-19, which originated from Wuhan, China, and has started to spread rapidly in different continents. It has parallel plot threads with that of Contagion. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), two days after returning home to Minnesota from a Hong Kong business trip, experiences a seizure and dies. Going back home from the hospital, her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), finds out that his stepson, Clark, has died as well. Doctors and researchers from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined the disease as a pig and bat-borne virus – resembling what we saw on the news earlier on in exotic marketplaces in China.

On the other hand, 2020 sets itself apart from others of the same genre by giving its viewers a visceral experience; like you just came to watch and soon enough, you realize you’ve already been signed up for a role, or more accurately, participation in the overall predicament to which the ending is uncertain.

The tension builds up as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. To help contain the spread of the virus, life outside is put on hold. Social distancing and other health-related protocols have been imposed to which people have eventually grown accustomed to. I believe this holistically captures the reality of a pandemic scene. While the world is developing a cure for the disease, humanity struggles with life in the new normal.

Another way the movie becomes more complex is when the media’s critical reporting ends up being attacked. When the country’s largest TV network is denied a franchise renewal before the congress, it takes a massive toll on the media landscape. What an untimely moment in the story. Remember the scene where it renders most, if not all, netizens fuming? That is a picture of democracy clamoring for its clamped-down freedom. When news and information are deemed vital more than ever, blindsiding the press is the last thing you’d want to happen.

Social media also plays a crucial role in the bigger picture. People rely on this platform as a potent tool for information dissemination. Ironically, this is also where fake news proliferates rapidly, much like the virus. Fake news created socio-political fissures among citizens. As a viewer, that made it extra difficult for me to determine what to believe.

Let’s talk about the characters. Yes, there are too many characters to watch out for, which adds to the confusion. Which storyline should I follow more?

One major intelligent move that the writer and director did was putting the spotlight on seemingly small roles. This tells the viewers that the disease can take out anyone and that every character’s move can make or break the whole story. And if you’re to ask me who stood out, I would say it’s the frontliners! Imagine saving the nation without the flashy superpowers but only skill and heart to serve—that’s beyond heroism.

And when we thought that the adversities are overwhelming enough, there comes a plot twist in the face of typhoons surprising the characters with another wave of challenges. Though this comes off as a massive blow, this doesn’t necessarily present itself as a long-running mishap as pictures of solidarity and altruism are seen everywhere to help people slowly emerge from the quagmire.

Overall, 2020 is heavily written. It is not just a sensational film about pandemic but a depiction of modern-day reality. It goes beyond characters going through unexpected challenges but largely an illustration of human consequences on a global scale. 2020 uncovers the harshest of truths about the world we live in now and provokes our deepest realizations about life, our purpose, and how we take care of our planet.

Despite it leaving us a trail of unpleasant narratives, I still believe though that the movie still has its saving grace: it is open-ended.

It doesn’t need a part two nor a Brad Pitt to discover the vaccine out of a life-threatening situation. It’s up to its strong-willed viewers to continue directing the flow of the story and interpret it one way or another.


Chum Ocenar lives in Rodriguez, Rizal and works in a consumer finance. His essay, A Second-Hand Dream has been published in Inquirer’s Youngblood. His pandemic poetry collection, Sa Panahon ng Ligalig has also been listed in the National Book Development Board’s Bookwatch 2020

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