It is likely that Alfredo S. Lim: The Untold Story will raise an eyebrow or two. It is undeniably strange to have a film about living person still heavily engaged in the politics of the time. It is even stranger to have a fourth one. One would be right to question what in the movie is true and what is mere mythologizing. But as it turns out, the questions don't really matter all that much. The movie stumbles so badly that it isn't really worth any serious consideration. Whether it's true or not seems inconsequential in the long run.
The movie largely takes place in the 1960s. Police Major Alfredo Lim (Cesar Montano) has just been commended for being one of Manila's ten most outstanding officers. But the celebration is cut short when one of his co-honorees is killed while trying to stop a robbery. Lim gets on the trail of this gang of criminals, carrying out a major surveillance operation. But his work takes a personal toll, his devotion to his duty causing friction in his marriage. And his righteousness ruffles the feathers of very powerful people, putting his family's life in danger.
The film also covers a bit of Lim's childhood as an orphan later raised by his grandmother. But these flashbacks add very little to the overall story, and often feel like unwelcome intrusions into the narrative. The film throws them in seemingly at random, breaking up the pace of an already slow story. As a whole, the film struggles to find any momentum. It fails to raise the tension at every turn, every potential conflict wrapped up before things can actually get interesting. Problems resolve themselves with little effort from the main character, making it all feel like a terrible waste of time.
To be fair, the film looks good. The production values are pretty high, and the photography recalls Kaminski at times. But there's so little holding these frames together. The tone varies wildly, the film swinging between very serious matters and lame stabs at comedy. The movie jumps haphazardly from scene to scene, never lingering ling enough to make any of it matter. There's one sequence that takes place in World War II that seems to exist solely for the sake of having an expensive looking war scene. It does not matter at all to the rest of the movie, but it remains to create the illusion of prestige.
Meanwhile, the story remains incoherent, often making the subject of the movie seem like an inept policeman. Cesar Montano does not seem to do much to get in the head of Lim, offering up a performance mostly indistinguishable from his other roles. He doesn't get very good performances from the rest of the cast either. Alessandra de Rossi feels entirely out of place in the movie. Marc Abaya and Nonie Buencamino get far too broad in their portrayal of the criminal element, making it all feel like a terrible pantomime.
There are people out there that believe that Alfredo S. Lim: The Untold Story is meant to be propaganda. To these people I say: don't worry. The movie isn't nearly compelling enough to be effective at winning over and hearts and minds. It is instead awfully tedious, the film lacking the focus and the storytelling skill to put together a coherent narrative. At best, the movie can only look good from a distance, where one may only perceive the money that went into building the package. But any closer, and the cracks quickly show.