Boundary is a film of tremendous ingenuity. It begins with an odd note, establishing the strangeness of the world at large. Then it moves the action to a taxi. And inside this confined space, the movie does miraculous things. It explores the treacherous ground of human connection, and builds an atmosphere of tension that consumes every single inch of the frame. The story ends up in familiar territory, but the trip there is more than worth it.
Limuel (Ronnie Lazaro) is a taxi driver. On a busy night in the Christmas season, he picks up Emmanuel (Raymond Bagatsing). Limuel drives Emmanuel through the city traffic to the other side of Metro Manila, and on the way, the two get to know each other. But not everything is at it seems. Both of them are hiding secrets, and before the night is through, those secrets will force both of them to the edge of their humanity.
The main action starts when those secrets are revealed, and that’s better left to the audience to discover on their own. But even before that action sets off, there are already plenty of indicators of the turmoil that follows. The film largely takes place within the confines of Limuel’s festively lit taxi, practically every frame suggesting claustrophobia. Furtive glances belie the openness of their conversation, building an atmosphere of paranoia even as trust is supposedly being built. This movie drips with tension, the cab a powder keg of possibility, simply waiting for either passenger to light the fuse.
A lot of the credit has to go to the direction. It is amazing how much movement the movie gets inside the cramped space of a taxi. The camera lets in the night, letting the darkness seep into the metal carriage, welcoming the odd luster of Manila after dark. The scenes inside the taxi are so well done that it’s almost a disappointment when the characters step out. The business outside the car isn’t really as interesting or as menacing as the quiet terror evoked by the confines of the vehicle. It results in a climax that doesn’t quite feel as satisfying as the buildup.
Two actors anchor this movie, and one of them happens to be Ronnie Lazaro. There is no movie in existence that Lazaro does not make better. And when he is at the center of the action, the result is often mesmerizing. Lazaro wears the story on his face, the tension embedded in his eyes, the struggle of his character etched plainly on the side of his mouth. Ronnie Lazaro is one of the finest actors in the country, and this movie is just more proof of that. Raymond Bagatsing steps up as well, matching Lazaro with a layered performance that plays with shifting identities.
Boundary is a serious pleasure. It is a film that transcends the limits of space and time, turning a taxi into a vast landscape of darkness, and transforming a single night into an endless ordeal of secrets, lies and unbroken tension. The revelations end up feeling a bit underwhelming, but it was never about the destination. As is often the case, the real joy is in the journey. This particular journey takes the audience down dark paths, even as it depicts the strange bonds that can be formed between complete strangers. That’s a remarkable thing.