The Mission is an installment of the crime action genre that injects a certain stillness that you appreciate upon your first viewing. It’s a film that makes you appreciate all that film can truly be; an art form. Unlike, some films, which are made to purely satisfy the dumb masses, other films are made because the filmmakers really do love making movies. Director Johnnie To is one of those directors that even if you had never seen a film of his before, you will realize that maybe there is hope in the world for film. The story involves five men who are hired to protect Lung, who has a target on his back. All five of these men have some sort of gang member background fit for the job with each having their own set of expertise including a gun expert (Lam Suet), a crime boss (Francis Ng), his right-hand man (Jackie Lui), a no questions asked killer (Anthony Wong) and a talented marksman (Roy Cheung) . Over time, they develop a friendship that includes your normal fare of beating each other up and then joking around with an exploding cigarette. It’s not a friendship that feels strained but one that actually feels genuine and gives these otherwise ruthless men a true heart.
From one action set piece to another, it’s never a dull moment. If I ever made a crime action film, it would probably be filmed exactly like this. I absolutely loved the way each scene was shot with brilliant still camera movements. There are hardly any close-ups and the use of long and medium shots is done with absolute perfection. Each shot has something to say and you appreciate every frame. There is one particular scene where the characters are in a shopping mall and they are protecting Lung from those who want to kill him. They are at their designated places and while a couple of the men are gunning down opponents, there is very little movement. For me, it’s a big contrast from movies in which people are moving at a fast pace with literally every muscle they move.
The characters move from one place to the next and we get small little bits of information about all these characters. Despite a lack of substance with the characters, you still go along for the ride and find them quite fascinating in their day to day lives. How will they protect Lung today? Will they still be alive when the day is over? It’s a question that lingers in your head as their mission gets more and more dangerous. Anthony Wong and Francis Ng are probably the most enduring of the stars in this film, giving out top-notch performances but the other stars in this film do a great job as well.
This is an essential film to the crime drama with its pure attention to detail, an amazing sense of style and nearly perfect execution on all aspects of filmmaking. It may have a simple story to tell and it won’t latch onto you long after you finished the movie but I can promise you that when you are watching it, you will be enchanted by its elegant technicalities and charismatic performances from its stars. For those seeking a breath of fresh air, especially in the crime genre, I would highly suggest you check this film out.