Well done Director Chiu, you’ve done it again! After wow-ing us with pass blockbuster films such as Woo Hoo and The Journey, he returns with another cinema hit. Unlike his previous films, this time it’s a non-CNY themed movie, and non-fully chinese movie, which is good. He managed to break his mould and do something different for a change. And something different he did, I believe no one in Malaysia has ever done a football-themed as good as he has done.
Ola Bola is loosely based on the true events around our national football team. Our Harimau Malayas are in shambles now, but during the 70’s to the early 80’s, Malaysia was a much feared football nation, at least in Asia. Names such Soh Chin Aun, Hassan Sani, James Wong, Santokh Singh etc were famous footballers. The characters used in the movie are also very much similar with them. For example James Wong and Eric were both strikers from Sabah, Soh Chin Aun and Chew Kok Keong were known as “taukeh” in real life. Even Dato Soh Chin Aun makes a cameo in the movie!
Another thing worth stressing about the movie is about the multi-ethnic nature of the movie. Not only that the cast are multi-racial, even the story and culture itself is so very diverse. It shows Kok Keong having a simple nasi lemak with his friend Rahman and his family in a typical Malay kampung house, the dialogue in Tamil among Muthu’s family, and also the various chinese dialects spoken all over the film, all of which are essence of what makes us all Malaysian. Even the cinema patrons consists of multi-racial people. Aside from a mamak stall, this cinema was the only other place that I have ever seen such a diversified ethnic composition.
I love the 80’s feel of the film. It really captures faithfully the feel of the era. Bell-bottoms, tight shirts, long hairdo for the guys. If you are sharp enough, you will also notice the logo of Milo and National, which were accurately depicted in the movie. The use of carbite lamps in both the rubber tapping scene and the fun-fair scene were very accurate too. Speaking about the fun-fair, Director Chiu was right; the details that went into the building the set for the fun-fair was very much spot-on.
I need to talk about the beautiful cinematography. This director seems to favour slow panning that dramatises the facial expression of the actors / actresses. He is able to use it to great effect. The soldier training regime is full of it! Also check out the many scenes of the sweeping mountains, forests and padi fields found in Malaysia. Makes me think, can we still find these wonderful places in Malaysia? How about the music? It manages to convey the message along, especially during the re-entry of the team back into the stadium for the 2nd half of the Korea vs Malaysia team. Wonderful soundscape!
There are some weaknesses in the movie as well, this is still not a perfect movie. The usual bumbling side-kick element still rears itself in the form of Cai with his silly buck-tooth and the mandatory sidekick-saves-the-day scene. And there are also some inaccuracy in the facts presented by the movie. But to be fair, this is not a documentary, so some exaggerated details are still acceptable. It has been a long time since anyone has made a truly Malaysian movie, and this brings the unity message successfully across. The famous quote of this movie, “We talk different languages, but we sing the same song” resonates deeply. Overall, I’d say that this is one of the best, if not THE BEST, Malaysian movie ever made in a long long time.