I would say that this movie really tests your emotional wellbeing. Each twist adds a new challenge that makes you understand why some people didn’t continue on this journey. From the initial moments of the end of the Vietnam War to the struggles leaving and getting somewhere safe to getting somewhere you want to be and then having it be worse than expected. That’s what this film is. Each time you start to feel comfortable, it gets worse. It’s almost like Russian history which can be explained as “it gets worse”. But is it too much? That’s the real question that continues throughout the film. To me, it does in certain parts; but, overall, I did enjoy it thoroughly and thought it told an interesting story from a different perspective.
To start off, the performances were generally good. Kieu Chinh, Long Nguyen, and Diem Lien definitely carried the film. Some performances that were slopping in my opinion was the kid and some of the supporting roles (I can’t remember their names and IMDb doesn’t have pictures. Sorry). I think that Long is especially likeable and he’s just a guy that people naturally gravitate towards and root for. He’s the person that people want to succeed. His downfall is tragic and unexpected. I think that the director (Ham Tran) did an excellent job with moving parts in the background of the scene of his downfall. I thought it was an interesting take and you’re just holding onto your seat for dear life as you wait for what happens next. I thought that Chinh and Lien had great chemistry together and were believable. Each time that they do something, it’s for a reason and that reason is usually correct. I think that sometimes we make the mistake of incorrectly assuming what the characters feel based on our personal experience, but most of the characters stayed true to their roots and I admired that about the film.
I did like the action as well. I thought that it was believable and the set design was also great, too. The boat scenes were well shot and the moving parts were well executed. I understand why they shot the pirate scene in the dark (not only because it made sense in the story) because of the budget constraints. I liked how the shots in the dark made sense that they were supposed to be in the dark like when one of the prisoners escapes. The makeup was also impressive. There were some scenes where I thought that surely that some of these actors got punched in the face to create the bruising and cuts.
The only reason that I’m not rating this higher is because it seemed to really press the issue hard. It’s okay to be overbearing, but at a certain point, I wanted more character development that wasn’t: something terrible happened in front of me. I really liked in the end where all of the characters finally face their problems. Although, I wished it would’ve been a little more nuanced instead of throwing a box of letters in someone’s face. I thought it was comically easy how they got out of all of their problems with this story about a kite. It was a nice way to tie up the film, but that family was not in good shapes because their son was suspended and none of them liked America. Some of the characters still hadn’t accepted Long’s death. To me, it was a trying to make a nice ending in an awful situation that didn’t really resonate with me as well.
Overall, I thought it was a good movie. The score was almost nonexistent at times and the world that was created made sense. I thought that it was a nice way to highlight what the boat people went through. I wish it was a little less heavy handed, but I think it got its point across and that’s almost better than appeasing me. I will try my hardest to find this film again. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to someone right away as it’s pretty gruesome. I would recommend it to someone who’s interested in the time period and wants to learn more about what these people went through. The film is sort of an allegory for the experiences of everyone who went through this.
Score: 7 out of 10