Compelling real-life story, conventional political flick
From an aktibista's perspective, there's much to be enamored with in Eskapo (1995), a political thriller chronicling Sergio Osmena III and Eugenio "Geny" Lopez Jr.'s daring escape from the Fort Bonifacio detention center in 1977. The good news? It casts a critical light on dictator Ferdinand Marcos' martial law years. Its main message: no one, not even fellow rich businessmen and politicans, were spared from the bastard's ruthlessness. For this alone, the film is worth watching.
The bad news is the story's framing: Osmena (Richard Gomez), Lopez (Christopher de Leon) and the Opposition (of rich businessmen and political rivals) are the heroes, Marcos and his goons are the villains and the rest of us were apparently watching on the sidelines, occasionally marching. The thousands of workers, peasants and ordinary activists who were detained or killed under Marcos don't figure much into Osmena and Lopez's story, except for a lone NPA soldier whose holding cell is next to theirs.
Director Chito S. Rono's handling of the subject matter couldn't have been any more conventional if it were a Costa-Gavras film. Cast as the Rebel and the Reluctant with a lady on the side (Dina Bonnevie, the perpetually fly auntie), the duo's dialogue goes like this: Serge: "Let's get out of here." Geny: "I'm afraid." Geny's wife, Chita, during conjugal visits: "I'm afraid too, but Serge is right." Geny: "OK, let's go."
Eskapo evokes a nationalism that heroizes the (ruling-class) Opposition's role in the movement against Marcos. It ends with a Miami Vice-style freezeframe and an epilogue that says nothing of the continuation of corruption and repression in the government from Cory Aquino onward, even though it was made in 1995. Not surprising considering that the film was funded and released by ABS-CBN, now run by Geny Lopez III. Still, as far as political thrillers go - especially in Philippines, where no films overtly criticizing Marcos were made during his rule - Eskapo is well crafted, albeit more thriller than political.
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