Written by Angelynn Tan – a student pursuing her psychology major from Tunku Abdul Rahman College University and an adventurous travel blogger.
You can read her adventures at TravelHolicMusings. Follow Angelynn on her Facebook page, her Instagram and her Pinterest board.
As I walked out of the cinema after watching Ola Bola, my heart was pumping and my face was flushed. To be honest, I did not have much of an expectation for ‘Ola Bola’. Like most Malaysians I know, we go to the cinema for Hollywood blockbusters. One single look at a local movie’s poster and we roll our eyes. It’s not that we never gave it a shot. But with the likes of ‘Ah Beng’ and ‘Pontianak’, it’s understandable. A bulk of Malaysian movies were so poorly done with such sloppiness that it’s almost a compliment to call a Malaysian movie mediocre.
Ola Bola is not one of those movies.
Photo credits: ink361.com
Ola Bola is about the trials and tribulations of the Malaysian football team training to get a spot in the 1980 Moscow Olympics under a new coach from England (Harry Mountain, played by Mark Williams), who restructured the team and threw the lead players in the team into unknown territory. Imagine only knowing how to make roti prata your whole life and your boss suddenly demands that you make a perfect nasi lemak. That’s how it felt like to me anyway. Long story cut short, the team struggled to things work amongst the locker thumping, sports injuries and 80s hippie hairstyles.
Guess what? They won.
Photo credits: thestar.com.my
That’s one of the bigger letdowns of the movie: it’s super predictable. You’re able to tell how the story would go and what would happen in the end. The setting of the ‘hardships’ are mild. I wouldn’t even call those hardships. It felt like a bunch of man egos trying to one-up each other. But, throughout the film, the director surprised us with Easter eggs buried in the movie. In the beginning, the boss of a TV production company egged on his reluctant employee (Marianne Tan) to do a feature on the Harimau Malaya. Even then, he seemed like a football aficionado, holding a football in his hands and made his exit by going ‘GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL!’. That boss is Rahman (Bront Palarae), who’s the commentator at the 1980 games. It’s not a big deal, but imagine my surprise when it was revealed.
Photo credits: says.com
The acting is a big problem. Some of the ‘supposedly’ tear jerking moments in the film were spoilt by the cringeworthy performance. The monologues were unnatural and forced. People around me were sobbing left and right, but when I felt like shedding a tear, the acting brought my tears back to the tear ducts. It was unbelievable, it was corny, it was damn cheesy. Rahman (Bront Palarae) is one of the best actors in the movie. His commentaries were goddamn funny. I felt like he commanded most of the scenes that he’s in. When he makes a joke, you laugh. When he’s confrontational, you listen. When he consoles Tauke (JC Chee), you know he’s listening and taking him seriously. Another thing that I liked about this movie is that it didn’t try to shove racial harmony down your throat. The jests and the jokes are made naturally. It didn’t attempt to be racially inclusive; it’s how we would interact with our friends who just happened to be a different race than us.
Photo credits: Astroawani
The movie was shot beautifully. Although I feel that the greens in the shots are sometimes too vivid, it’s stunning overall. There are some scenes that I bet sounded great on paper but were really awkward to watch. The driving-in-silence scene between Tauke and Muthu comes promptly in mind. It’s beautifully shot, sure, and Zee Avi’s soothing voice in the background really seals the deal. But there’s no meaning in the scene and the transition to the next scene left me feeling like ‘wtf is that for?!’.
Scenes like this are littered all over the movie, showcasing cinematography but does nothing to move the plot forward. That said, I was being nitpicky with this as I feel that the scenes that looked great and functional are way more prominent in the movie than those that’s meaningless.
Photo credits: Says.com
Halfway through the movie, I don’t really care about the negatives anymore. I don’t care that the acting ruined things for me; I don’t care that I knew what was coming. This movie got me so involved that I held my breath in suspense in most of the matches. I was rooting for the characters. I was groaning with the audience (in the movie and out) when they lost 9-0. I was elated when they did score a goal. I was frustrated when Ali (Luqman Hafidz) just wouldn’t take a break. I was very near to tears when Muthu said he knows nothing when his family (specifically three rascals) ran into some troubles. I was extremely worried when Muthu’s younger brothers tried to drive a lorry. I was kept on edge on my seat, going through an emotional roller coaster that the movie brought me. For a movie that wants me to believe, I believed. Well, momentarily anyway, before the moment was ruined by the cheesy acting.
At the end of the movie, there were clapping and cheering. That’s tantamount winning an election or to receive a Nobel prize in the context of Malaysian movies. When you get to the nitty-gritty of the movie, it wasn’t all that good. The story and the characters were bland and predictable. But the Malaysia Boleh spirit embodied by the film, the will to fight against all adversities and to persevere, reminded Malaysians of our resilient soul and our uncanny ability to thrive under duress.
The story of brotherhood over the backdrop of sports reminded Malaysians that we are not alone and that it doesn’t matter whether you’re Malay or Chinese or Indian or whatever race you are. If you’re Malaysian, you’re our brother/sister. In this turbulent time, we sure as hell needed that reminder.
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