It’s undeniable that one would sit down for a screening of PASKAL mainly to expect its action sequences, choreographed fights (by the actors themselves) and some insights on the lives and missions of the Royal Malaysian Navy‘s elite squad, Pasukan Khas Laut but what was surprising is how there was a lot of heart in the story.
Watching PASKAL, one might be moved to care for the characters by an exceptionally diverse cast however, the actors might be limited by some lines of dialogue that would be deemed ‘wooden’; writer Anwari Ashraf has provided a compact script filled with mentions of military terms and emotional statements expressing the hardship of being part of the PASKAL unit that should have brought out more than mediocre performances that seemed to be cut by the running time to serve for the film’s main character which is its visuals. Because of so many characters, some of them are left undeveloped without much backstory aside from how they were presented as they were on screen; so we do care for them but only because they were entrusted into dangerous situations.
One of the most memorable scenes that stayed with me was not the plot-twist of the film in a classic story of betrayal, or the training montages of the PASKAL squad at par with that of Rocky‘s but less than a minute shots of silence where the camera is allowed to linger and director, Adrian Teh commands in these scenes that he did not make a mindless action movie. We see the complications of balancing familial responsibility and his duty to the country when Hairul Azreen‘s Arman held in his hands, his ailing mother’s clothes stained with blood while his military uniform was clean and we held our breath at the moment when the PASKAL team jumped from a plane in the air during the film’s climax which was done in complete silence (mirroring the unsoundness of that infamous scene in Star Wars‘ The Last Jedi).
Even the action sequences were made with details in mind and the intention to build tension as to keep audiences at the edges of their seat with milestones like grenades that could be triggered by traps made with wires, the tactics of the squad entering small confinements and the modern gadgets used to determine the obstacles they would face during the mission. What saved some of the mild performances of the cast was the visible chemistry like the wit and strictness of Nam Ron‘s Leftenan Komander Maznan unleashed upon the troops, the brotherhood expressed through friendly banter by the PASKAL navy portrayed by Gambit Saifullah, Hafizul Kamal, Taufiq Hanafi and Theeban G as well as the bond shared between families of the military played by Jasmine Suraya and Sherry Al Jeffry. The set design and cinematography (by Yoong Choon Lin) is also admirable because it highlights the inside of vessels, submarine and took us from the standpoint of the characters as they journeyed deeper into ships and oil platforms.
Writing about the performance of the dynamic Amerul Affendi at the very end of the review is quite fitting, the actor plays a villainous pirate that was made to be the epitome of terror for the movie though it was almost eclipsed by the morally torn PASKAL member, Mohd Zariff a.k.a Jeb (Ammar Alfian) who made a reasonable argument on the unknown and unrecognised sacrifices of the PASKAL unit thus, the obvious enemy, Rudy falls quite flat. PASKAL checks the list for an entertaining action movie but it also tells the story of ambition to protect the country against unwanted terrorism, realism in partaking the military and putting forward awareness of being part of that world without glorifying it. Catch PASKAL in cinemas now!
3.8 / 5
Featured image is the official poster for the movie, PASKAL and images are scenes from the film.