Movie Reviews

Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba (Review)

The film adaptation of Ramlee Awang Murshid’s great novel, Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba is a great piece of cinema in an industry filled with cliches.

Directed by
Nasir Jani
Seth Larney

Produced by
Zurina Ramli

Screenplay by
Yasmin Yaacob
Choong Chi Ren

Zul Ariffin

Nabila Huda
Farid Kamil
Faizal Hussein
Hasnul Rahmat
Dato’ M. Nasir
Michael Chen
Azlym Aziz
Farah Ahmad

Edited by
Nazim Shah

Production company    
Astro Shaw
Layar Sunan
Ideate Media
AMC Studio IDW Entertainment

Smooth VFX used as background
Smooth VFX used as background

As an action movie, the cinematography for this film is well-crafted and deliberate, with POV (point-of-view) shots to pull the audience into the brawl, the great usage of slow-motion and fast cuts to increase the intensity of the fights and further emphasizing on Ejim’s strength and agility. The camera work leads you through the punches and kicks without overwhelming your senses, with tumbling shots and shaky handheld during suspenseful moments.

Nabila Huda plays Wan Suraya (Source:
Nabila Huda plays Wan Suraya (Source:

The story is consistent as a whole, piggybacking on Ramlee Awang Murshid’s wonderful writing and is translanted into film form competently by Yasmin YaacobChoong Chi Ren, but the screenplay suffers slightly in certain parts, especially the dialogue. Some of them felt stilted and cheesy, like the conversations between Dato M. NasirFaye Kusairi.

This problem is also partly the fault of execution, as some of the actors can’t decide on a dialect as they sway between KL and Sabahan. It’s little things like this that slightly taints the otherwise strong and subtle performance by Farid Kamil as Amiruddin. Zul Ariffin, normally cast as the pretty boy in anything he’s in, is entirely masked in this film, thus pushing to relish the opportunity of showing his acting chops through only his voice and his athletic ability.

Wan Suraya (Nabila Huda), on the other hand, is an empowering presence as she doesn’t just exist as eye candy in the film, but as a determined news reporter out to discover the truth. Faizal Hussein playing the role of Tombiruo’s father-mentor-figure does an excellent job at injecting mysticism and warmth into his role. Farah Ahmad also embodies the eerie nature of Monsiroi the bobohlian effectively, especially when she’s in a trance-like state and speaking in the Kadazandusun language.

faizal-hussein-filem-tombiruo-penunggu-rimba-2017In fact, the Kadazandusun language is used significantly in the movie to drive narration. Alongside the frequent display of Gunung Kinabalu, the usage of the language and dialect adds to the immersive nature of Tombiruo’s world. Although the way the Sabahan culture is portrayed is often inaccurate and filled with over-generalizations, the presence of a movie like Tombiruo is definitely a step forward in a Semenanjung-centric film industry. Especially since this movie itself is part of a trilogy, we might get a further look in the fantasy world centered around Sabah.

Tombiruo stands out above the rest in the recent film industry, even as an action film. It explores the subtext of Man VS Nature really well through the eyes of a man burdened with responsibilities and imperfections, almost as well as the original novel does. There are also deep, emotional nuance in scenes that explores fatherhood and familial relationships. There are cringeworthy moments, but the overall feel of Tombiruo speaks to a sense of cinematic maturity that is very rare in Malaysian cinema. Especially when it involves a lot of punching and kicking.


Tombiruo is still out in the cinemas now! Go on and watch it and tell us what you think! For more info go to the film’s website

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