Review - 'The Line' by Cheng Shian Wen (Viddsee Series)

The Line by Cheng Shian Wen

Starting this week, SINdie will be doing regular reviews of selected short films from Viddsee, an online platform for filmmakers and watchers of Southeast Asian Films. This will one of the several ways SINdie will be collaborating with Viddsee, championing independent films from Singapore and the region.

Here's the first to kick off. SINdie writer Joseline Yu reviews 'The Line' by Cheng Shian Wen

The Line involves plucking the soldiers who have graduated from the premises of Ah Boys To Men and Army Daze into a (fictional) actual war zone. The short film’s tags on Viddsee encapsulates its serious-minded ambitions: “desperation, human nature, politics, war”.

The factoids of the Taunesia Civil War displayed at the beginning and at the end of the short film creates a sense of gravity, which is subsequently undermined by the execution of action thriller tropes. The two soldiers fulfill the usual “good cop and bad cop” combination, with the more “badass” member eventually becoming attached to the cause he claims to be apathetic towards. The liberal usage of the ‘f’ word in conversations between the two is probably meant to show that these two soldiers have long outgrow their boyhood. Nonetheless, why the events in The Line warrant such copious swearing deserves some contemplation. There’s no fucking, no one gets fucked over and by the standards of the action genre, things didn’t get that fucked up.

The film continues to take itself seriously in its clich├ęd and melodramatic scenes which couldn’t be more off the mark from the gritty depiction of wartime violence it signals itself to be. Any tension in the scene when the local militia brutalizes the Singaporean soldiers and the female lead is weakened by  the presence of the dwarf-like Taunesian leader who provides inappropriate comic relief. Most of the dialogue are less words likely to be spoken by people placed in the same situation but instead words expected to be spoken by genre archetypes placed in the same situation. The film’s competing aims of verisimilitude and pleasing action thriller fans could be inferred from the dramatization of the female lead espousing her patriotic cause in which “inspiring” music and naturalistic sounds of a grassy plain could be heard at the same time.

On the whole, The Line’s premise of featuring Singaporean soldiers in a war-ridden country which is the complete opposite of their relatively peaceful homeland is different and daring enough to be given the treatment of an actual full-length action thriller. Yet as shown in this short film, the premise inevitably loses much of its potency as the filmmakers’ fail to scale their ambitions down to size. 

Review by Joseline Yu

Watch the full short film here on Viddsee


About Viddsee

Viddsee is an online video platform for filmmakers and audience of Southeast Asian short films. Built and designed by engineers and filmmakers, Viddsee enables users to easily discover, watch and share stories from Southeast Asia on their desktop and mobile devices. Our vision is to continually grow the community of short film audiences to enable a wide and accessible market reach for short films and become the leading micro-cinema platform for Asia.

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