Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
Sundalong Kanin tells the beginning history of the Japanese occupation to the Philippines in 1941. The film centers four children who daily plays fake warfare in their leisure. The story has lead their lives to an actual war, making the kids think that they may become part of it, bringing a mindset that it's easy to become a heroic patriot and defending their love ones from getting hurt. Just like any great anti-war movies, it has to (obviously) turn that expectation to another way around, but this is one of those that focuses on the perspective of children which shows that they're not living in their dreams anymore and rather set themselves to a darker path. At its best, the film is totally compelling at pursuing that view.
The film structures its characters well, every bit of information always have something to do to what's coming. The protagonists', which are the kids, self-escapism from their parents' discipline is their pretending of having a battle by playing with their slingshots and darts, which we see no reason why they won't eager to sign up to become soldiers. But through the perspective of the young, war looks like it's just fun and games. This is nothing different to most of us actually, we always misinterpret war by only focusing on the action but apparently we usually negate the horrors of violence and death. But this is not the actual case here. The kids did not see the real battle yet, the terror of what they see are their friends and family getting hurt, threatened, or just killed in cold-blood by the tyrannical officials of their enemy.
Though, the portrayal of this conflict is not black-and-white either. The story never forgets to consider that both sides have the same goal and motivation. The enemies can be sympathetic, while our side can also produce pain to our own community. It just lets the bad things keep coming, transforming every single one of them into the worst of themselves, which makes the condition even more complicated. But it doesn't always have to be depressing, the only pleasant time the film gives is letting the kids be kids. The finest part of the film's direction is balancing the tone, understanding what each scenario has to feel. The performances are great. The child actors are splendid, while they are naturally kids having fun in their youth, they also solidly manifested their characters' angst and grief. The other actors did their jobs good as well.
Sundalong Kanin takes its ambitions straight, it makes no compromises from what makes war so terrible and dangerous, that its bad human effects could also come through children. This is truly gripping stuff, taking us to history lessons and exploring more of the period. The actual fight between nations mostly happens in the sidelines, the real story here is the people breaking down their illusions and end up feeling doomed about the situation. Overall, it's such a brilliantly engrossing thing to examine.
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