Plurality

***

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Plurality
"Looks good and there are moments of real tension." | Photo: Signature Entertainment

It seems to be the season for confusing film narratives, though in the case of Plurality there is at least a half-good reason for that. The set-up is interesting. A bad guy – we don’t know who, that is all part of the mystery – is kidnapping children and murdering/mutilating them. For reasons not entirely clear, the murderer boards a bus containing approximately four other passengers. Though hang on to your hats because even that “hard” fact may be just a trick of your perception.

Only then the bus is involved in an accident and all die in the ensuing conflagration. Their bodies are incinerated. Now they’ll never find the latest victim. Short film! But wait. Mum-cum-scientist, Dr Shen (Sandrine Pinna), whose son has been kidnapped also runs a facility researching consciousness and related metaphysics. She has the technology to rebuild them. Or rather, before they snuff out from existence one final time, to upload their consciousnesses into the body of a patient currently in a coma. Or persistent vegetative state, as it is politely described.

Copy picture

How lucky is that!

So now they’re all inside the body of Ming Ze – or maybe Cheng Guang - who wakes from his coma to discover his mind is now a time-share, with at least four fellow passengers on board. Yes: it’s a good old multiple personality murder mystery. That said, it is not easy to tell, since the film publicists have been decidedly sparing with the additional details. Example: one reviewer seems to think Ming Ze is played by Tony Yang Yo-ning, but another equates Tony Yang with vegetative state person Cheng Guang-Xuan.

Still, we can confidently assert that also along for the ride in this film, written and directed by Aozaru Shiao, are Chao Yi-lan, Chen Yi-wen, Lei Fu, Duncan Lai, and Liang Cheng-Chun. Though we are not entirely sure who played who inside Cheng’s brain: who is the young woman: who the old man. (Yes, we’re doing stereotypes!). And who the evil homicidal murderer? In fact, we’re not even sure the murderer is on that list, for which, apologies.

Also involved is police officer, Wang (Frederick Lee), whose approach to Ze is to intimidate him violently in an effort to keep him onside…thereby abusing a bunch of innocent folks in his quest to find a murderer. Some serious ethical boundaries get crossed in this film: not just in the underlying concept; but also, in the way Wang conducts himself. My hope is that this is meant to be “old school” policing because otherwise, it is not a good look for law and order in Taiwan, which is where Plurality was made.

Adding to the confusion are a variety of techniques to distinguish the in-brain world, where the characters interact and, as per The Matrix, are apparently able to inflict terminal violence on one another; and the “real world”, where most of the action is based around the body of Cheng Guan, but with occasional flashes of other bodies to keep viewers on their toes and remind them that what they are seeing is not necessarily what they are getting.

The effects are not bad. The film score is seriously heavy handed, someone needs to take their pedal off the bass. Still, the whole looks good and there are moments of real tension. Also (spoiler alert!) a very definite Twin Peaks vibe as, at the end one thinks one is dealing with one individual…only to find the hero is now inhabited by the spirit of evil Bob.

I know. I was confused by Twin Peaks …and that only had one repossessive spirit on the books. Imagine my confusion in a film with a good half a dozen seemingly alternating at random.

In addition, there is much that is derivative about this film. Already checked off are The Matrix, and Twin Peaks. There’s a major nod, too – for which, read major borrowings – from M Night Shyamalan’s 2017 film, Split, leanings towards The Cell (2000) and, in the finale, a definite Frankenstein vibe as Dr Shen and Wang are forced to confront the question of “who are the monsters, really?”

Bottom line: if you like your plots straightforward and easy to follow, Plurality is going to annoy the hell out of you. On more than one occasion I had to go back and rewatch a scene to work out just what happened. The film’s almost climax – and critical plot point – needed about four rewatchings. And that is before you factor in the continuity bloopers and plot holes.

Still, if you accept it for what it is, an over-ambitious action movie with wacky sci-fi premise, you won’t be entirely disappointed. I wasn’t.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2021
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After a bus accident, Ming Ze awakens from a coma to discover that his mind now shares the consciousness of four fellow passengers – all of them dead and all serial killing suspects – and sets out to prove his own innocence.
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Director: Aozaru Shiao

Writer: Tzu-Yung Hung, Benjamin Lin, Aozaru Shiao

Starring: Chao Yi-lan, Chen Yi-wen, Lei Fu, Duncan Lai, Frederick Lee

Year: 2021

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: Taiwan

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