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Metro Manila More at IMDbPro »

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27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Sundance 2013 World Dramatic Audience Winner

Author: Trentflix from
27 January 2013

Metro Manila won the Audience award for best World Dramatic Competition film at Sundance 2013. This is UK writer/director Sean Ellis's third feature-length film. Set in the Philippines this is a story of a rural farmer, Oscar, who takes his wife and two children to Manila to find employment and a better life. The promises of gainful employment and opportunity however aren't as easily realized and their morals and faith are put to the test. In the Q&A Sean Ellis stated that this plot is a well-tread cliché in the Philippines but here it seems fresh, as is the setting of Manila where we are privy to its desperate slums and seedy underbelly.

Metro Manila is a combination of a family drama, heist movie and crime thriller. There isn't a lot of action but there is always the sense of inevitable violence and danger awaiting our protagonist.

Beyond writing and directing, Sean Ellis also handled the cinematography and operated the Steadicam. The film is shot beautifully with an over the shoulder documentary feel (thankfully not a shaky-cam) which brings you wholly into these characters lives and predicaments. We are constantly trapped in enclosed spaces with Oscar which provides not only intimacy, but complicity in his actions. Oscar Ramirez, played by Jake Macapagal, and his wife Mia, played by Althea Vega, both easily elicit our deepest sympathies. The performances (including our two leads) are lead mainly by native theater actors, the film is very cinematic but they bring a naturalistic presence and their talent on screen is apparent.

Oscar and his wife are devout and have tried honest labor farming. The only job she can find is in a seedy dancing bar and he is lucky to find a job transporting valuables in an armored vehicle which is considered one of the most dangerous jobs as the city is rife with criminals. Soon, he is asked to compromise his morals in the face of being able to provide for his family.

This film is a look at how the poor and disenfranchised are constantly exploited and taken advantage of as well as what greed and desperation can lead to. The sense of poverty and helplessness is palpable and is emotionally staggering. You will feel guilty for complaining about your job and any other first world problems you may have. This is a film that entertains, excites and lets you appreciate and reflect on your own situation.

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26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

a shocking first impression of an unfamiliar city

Author: pailletq from France
6 August 2013

This film is without doubt a thriller, although the action scenes are kept to a minimum in terms of length (they do remain quite violent).

But what's shocking about it is that it's for most people the first time they're actually going to see or hear about Manila, and in this case they'll be seeing it from the bottom looking up. This film paints a rather dark picture, but a picture worth seeing: the developing world isn't a bed of roses, and things like violence and corruption do make up the everyday lives of its poorer inhabitants.

Therefore, this story is a story of struggle, and is definitively worth seeing, if only to get away from the postcard image that we may have seen of the Philippines.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

This Manila is Not Paradise

Author: 3xHCCH from Quezon City, Philippines
10 October 2013

"Metro Manila" is like two films in one. The first hour was about how Oscar Ramirez (Jake Macapagal), a poor farmer from Banaue, decides to bring his wife Mai (Althea Vega) and kids to Manila so he can find a better job so they can escape their poverty. It turns out that Manila is not really the paradise at all that it is cut out to be, as the Ramirez family continues to wallow in abject squalor. The major portion of this first half of the film are the sad images of the "real" Metro Manila with its polluted environment and overpopulation.

The second half of the film is the main crux of the story. Oscar gets a job as a courier of an armored car service, facing danger daily as they transport safety-deposit boxes containing a lot of money and other valuables. He is partnered with the more senior and jaded guard/driver named Douglas Ong (John Arcilla). Ong overly showers Martinez with kindness and generosity. But Oscar will soon find out later that Ong would have favors of questionable integrity to ask of him. As problems of criminal and ethical nature arise, what would Oscar do next?

Jake Macapagal really disappeared into his role as Oscar. It was like he was not acting in his scenes. We deeply feel his frustration and confusion as a father who desperately wants to provide for his family. Althea Vega tends to have a blank look on her face in some of her scenes, but she is much better here than her lead role in "Amor Y Muerte" earlier this year. John Arcilla was over-the-top in his characterization of Ong, and he really exuded that dangerous vibe about him. The tension was so thick when he is around. Ana Abad Santos made an impact even only with her two short scenes as Ong's wife, Dora.

The main plot is simple, about the corruption of the innocent in the wild jungle of the big city, and the film shows it well. I did like its setting of a security/armored car service, which I found to be novel and interesting. The set-up and revelation of the ending was wonderfully written and executed, very effective and poignant. I was expecting this to have English subtitles since I was interested to see how certain words and phrases would be translated, but there was none where I watched it.

As a resident of Metro Manila, I was very excited to see this film made by a foreigner about the city I live in. But upon watching, I admit I was not very happy at the sordid way Manila was depicted in an international film like this, now on its way to potential Oscar glory. It runs counter to all our efforts done to attract tourists to our country. However, I also know that the montage of unflattering scenes about the streets and slums of Manila is unfortunately true and accurate. It may be an incomplete picture of Metro Manila, yet it remains an undeniable reality. This is what British producer/director/writer/cinematographer Sean Ellis saw when he was in Manila, and we have to accept that.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Keep with this gets better as it progresses.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
27 March 2014

Metro Manila is not a film for everyone. It's an incredibly tough movie to watch at times and your heart really goes out to the leading characters in the movie. However, if you can make it through all the misery, you'll find that the script is amazingly well written and intelligent.

The film begins with Oscar Ramirez receiving only a pittance for their hard work as rice farmers. It's so little that they see they have only one choice—to travel to the big city to look for work. However, this nice family is constantly screwed during the course of the film—to the point where you wonder if it can get any worse. Their rent money is stolen—and they have no food for themselves or their two small children. Out of desperation, the wife gets a degrading job working in a sleazy bar as a 'hostess'—though she's not much better than a prostitute. Then the husband works all day only to be given a couple sandwiches in payment! Now they have no place to live, practically no food and they are desperate. Only when the man gets a job working as an armored car worker do things start to look up for them. Now, they can live in a nicer and safer home and they finally feel happy. But, based on how things have gone so far, I kept expecting the other shoe to fall. And, fall it did---but in such a creative way that it made the film worthwhile. What exactly happens to these poor people? Well I certainly won't spoil it by telling! However, the ending really took me by surprise—and I love to be surprised.

This movie has a lot going for it. A great reason to watch it is to see just how much of the world lives. This film doesn't give a beautiful look at Manila but shows a desperate town where it's more dog eat dog than anything else. How the family tries to hold on is what makes the film truly exciting to watch. But, as I already said, the film is tough viewing at times. It certainly is NOT a feel-good film and it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to see it through to the end. But it IS worth it. It also features some excellent natural acting and it is a well made production and makes me want to see more from these folks.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Truly awesome !!!!

Author: GUENOT PHILIPPE ( from France
19 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A pure masterpiece. How the hell could any one say anything wrong or bad about this film? I can't describe it with the appropriate terms. We find here emotion, suspense, action, all in the same movie. The editing is absolutely terrific, the characters describing also above you may imagine. A social, noir crime drama. I guess independent American movie industry could have given us such a gem, but this one is directed by a British film maker. I don't know his other films. I think there are also worth. We also can say it's an armored truck movie, there are not so many. But this most interesting is of course else where.

When I still think about it, I feel thrills under my skin. The tragic fate of all the characters. Nothing is better than this. Nothing.

Such a shame that this little film is despised by the summer audiences, more interested by the block buster craps and their f... super heroes.

I hate em all. Because of those fools, such little movies are so rare.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Could Potentially be the Best Filipino Film Ever Made

Author: Layput from Philippines
18 April 2014

Saying that this film could potentially be the best Filipino film ever made is a big statement, perhaps an overstatement, but I think it is. However, there are some things I would like to get off my chest and say that some things in the movie could have been better.

It has been a while since I've seen a Filipino act so good. With this, I wish to extend Jake Macapagal my deepest congratulations. His acting was precise and right on the money and I do not think that there was anyone who could have played the role better.

I don't exactly know what was wrong with the dialogs but perhaps because the original script was written in English and was later on translated to Filipino, that it became apparent that it brought about cultural-linguistic misalignments which made many lines sound fundamentally imprecise. To those who cannot understand spoken Filipino and would only need to rely on subtitles to understand the dialogs, the acting can appear fine. But for those who understand the native language, some actings can appear painfully bad.

Althea Vega was frigid most of the time but there was nothing that she could do worse than when she delivered iconoclastic lines. John Arcilla is a great actor by any measure but how his acting turned out to be unusually tense is a big wonder. He could have simmered his excitement quite a bit and he would have played the role with much more convincing realism.

Of all the actors in the film, only two managed to give life to their lines without unnecessarily giving an underacting or an overacting. Only Jake Macapagal and Miles Canapi, the madamme who played Charlie, were the only two worthy of praise. But everyone deserves to be congratulated, nonetheless. However, I find it quite strange because all the scripts, I believe, were written or translated by the same person. And yet some of the actors gave outstanding performances and some of them gave poor ones. I guess it is safe to say that talent can get the best out of the actors even if the lines are fundamentally flawed.

Many people have noticed that the film painted the capital in a rather unsightly way. I understand that in order to get a good story across, the plot has to tread somewhere in the territories of exaggeration. But believe me, the depiction of Metro Manila as a dirty city with ruthless inhabitants who always acted on their animalistic selfish behavior is chillingly accurate. What is more surprising is that it was written by a foreigner who has not lived in the Philippines for very long and who many consider could not give an accurate account of the locality. But his impressions or observations were excruciatingly accurate which no one can attempt to dispute.

Watching the entire film was exhausting not because it was dull or boring but because the misfortunes of the family always make you wish they could finally catch a break at some point. And when you think that nothing could be worse, along comes another. Imagine yourself in the shoes of those persons in real life and it would give you a whole new sense to the meaning of the word 'living'. I wonder what people in the First World countries feel about their First World problems after watching this.

This movie is so tense, I had to watch it in staggered sessions because I could not handle the suspense. The anticipation was so unbearable that I always jumped off my seat several times.

I grew up in Manila and I have seen it transformed. I have been to all those locations that were shown in the movie but nothing could have prepared me for what I would see in this film. If ever there was a family in Manila that goes through what this family had been through, I wouldn't want to know about it. Honestly, it now gives me second thoughts about getting out of the house when I would be visiting there in the future. Not because I am scared of the place but because I wouldn't want to meet anyone that could remind me of the sad fate of the family in this movie. In a way, I admit that I am affected and I must say that if a film can create such an impact to the viewers, I believe the story teller has achieved his purpose.

While I may not give this film 10 stars due to some dialog flaws, I believe it is the best Filipino film ever made. Only that it really was not made by a Filipino per se but by a British film maker who was trying to make a non-English foreign film. Regardless, I am still glad that someone has done something which many Filipinos can relate to. Yes, it is unfortunate that it would take a foreigner to make the best Filipino film but just like the overall tone of the film, it is sad but true.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Sometime you must risk all when you get a chance.

Author: Reno Rangan from Somewhere in the Cosmos
9 August 2014

An independently produced from both the countries, Phillipines and United Kingdom which was selected to represent Britain at the 2013 Oscars. This crime-thriller is about a family's struggle and involvement in a crime affair. From the director of 'Cashback' another excellent and a different movie. When the movie 'Where God Left His Shoes' meets 'Armored', the 'Metro Manila' forms. But in a better way in every minute detail. With the beautiful dialogues and the performances the story makes you wonder how long it can drag. The value of sacrifice for the sake of the family's survive strikes with the unexpected twist.

A farmer family who failed to harvest in large quantity gets a little value for what they got in the hands. The savings are not enough to invest for the next season. So the whole family, father, mother and two children decide to travel to the capital city to earn money. They struggle to get a place to stay in the threatening Manila city where it is crowded, polluted and illegal activities are soaring high. Being a farmer family, they are the easiest target to get cheated. Both the parents get a decent job till they come to know the reason behind their recruitment. And what comes after is the family's only chance to put a full stop for all the struggles for once.

''You have more chances of seeing an alien than winning the lotto.''

You know what impressed me in this movie, the reality. Everything I saw was like a documentary movie till the last quarter. In the last few minutes I realized that I am watching a movie. That is only because of the awesome twist and turn to end the story on a high note. From beginning to the end the narration was precisely defined about the life in Manila city, especially in the category of below poverty line. The honest was convinced me and so the great end with a line: I too want to save my family, but my plan was never based on a dream. One of the best dramas based on the innocent family. It won't try to convince you with the family sentiments, but stays true and unveils the brutality of the metro city which apply same proportion for any other metros in the world. A rare gem and won't be wrong to say it is a must see.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Extremely well made Phillipinne movie... brought me to tears.

Author: chavisatkins from Chicago, IL
22 August 2015

And that takes a lot to make me come to tears. I haven't wrote a review on IMDb in awhile and there is some movies deserving of one that I should review it but this one... man it hurt me, in a good way sort of speak. This is a story of a man that simply is trying to do his role as a husband and father by making sure his family is taken care of. He comes from a background that I'm sure those from the Philippines will relate to and decides that life in the big city will give his family a change of pace. He instead finds that the city is full of betrayal and lies with the people he meets. Not to say everyone there is out to hurt someone but it shows the realism of what some people go through simply trusting in someone they don't know. This is not a action movie but a movie that is sort of a thriller and moving like... sorry, my terminology isn't there for movies.

The movie is a tearjerker as they say and I'm a black man who actually don't mind movies like that. This movie I didn't expect to be tearjerkish and I really don't go looking for those type movies. I'm not trying to say that this movie should be watched to feel bad for someone but that it is a movie centered on trying to capture how things can really get rough for families trying to start out in Manila.

Every time "Oscar" the main character had something happen to him, it affected me and that goes to show how EXCELLENT a job Jake did in this role. Everyone played their parts right even down to the adorable daughter of his. At times I was concerned his wife would leave him... just had me that in tuned.

Everything about the movie is gritty and surreal that you feel as if this is really happening; someone just taped it all somehow. What happens in the end brought me to tears because I am a human that sympathize and understand a bold move people will take for their family. It just pains me that I can only wish I could tell folks I know about this movie but they won't give it a try because it is a foreign movie and don't want to read subtitles.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

WOW - Amazing and Realistic!

Author: (bayareamike) from United States
28 March 2014

I'll briefly go into my background. I married a Filipina and though we were married in Cebu, I was in Manila several times for visits to the Embassy to get her Visa. Overall, I have been to the Philippines nine times in total and know it rather well for being an American.

The story is amazing and the quality of the film (actual direction, camera work, scenery, acting, video quality, etc) is by far the best Philippine movie there is out there PERIOD! I found it memorizing as I felt as if I was there. It had the film quality of a big-budget American film that was filmed in a 3rd world Country that REALLY tells how things are for some people in other parts of the world.

Because I see Philippine movies and shows almost daily (in the background at home) and the quality is so bad, the last thing I really wanted to see is a Philippine movie. I know the Philippine people try their best when it comes to film given the tools they have to work with, but for anyone who is not a Filipino, their movies and TV shows are pretty bad and quite unwatchable. They enjoy them so I suppose that's what counts. However when I came across this film, the British Direction and the high IMDb ratings really excited me to actually see a well-made movie set in the Philippines! This outperformed and then some..... You'll witness first hand a honest and loving family risking everything for a better life only to go through unimaginable obstacles in the raw streets of Manila.

I can't wait to watch it with my wife! Even if I didn't have a Philippine connection, this is by far the best Foreign movie I have seen in years - Good job! A++

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Great movie with an overdrawn exposition

Author: Daniel B from Hungary
10 January 2014

Sean Ellis draw a beautiful picture about the cruelty of the third world life. He's great at portraying the poverty of Manila and the pain of the characters (even when most of the acting are bad). But there's nothing else in this film besides this. The first act is literally one and a half hour long, but after that, the movie turns out great. However, we get to see the characters suffer too much before the main plot gets started.

I gave it a 7.5 out of 10, because the setting and the world was interesting, and I liked the ending very much, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone would find it boring overall.

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