Ang Misyon: A Marawi Siege Story begins with text explaining that the filmmakers wish to help viewers understand the root causes of the conflict down south, before listing the qualifications of the director as former Mindanao Bureau Chief of ABS-CBN news. The movie then gets down to business, telling the story of Sajid (Martin Escudero), a registered nurse radicalized when his father was murdered in front of him. He carries out his usual work, while secretly lending support to local terrorists, and harboring a yearning for revenge against the military forces that he believes killed his father.
The first sequence of this film is a firefight between military forces and what are presumably armed terrorists. The film doesn’t really offer a lot of context, launching into what ends up feeling like random violence. The first glimpse we get of Sajid is of him on a gurney, apparently shot, even though we didn’t really see him in the previous firefight. The movie then goes back in time to tell us the story of he got into this situation, but it never really manages to connect the dots in a way that works. The film as a whole really struggles to tell a coherent story, and while its intentions are probably above reproach, that doesn’t absolve the movie of its myriad failures.
The film is mostly made up of awkward conversations that have characters either providing exposition or clumsily sketching out the subtext of the story. What the film lacks is any tension or intrigue. One ends up presuming, based on the synopses available for this movie, that the conflict would lie in the military discovering Sajid’s secret, and having the character caught between two sides. This doesn’t actually happen, and the narrative ends up feeling directionless. It takes a long time before it even feels like Sajid is questioning the wisdom of his actions, and it comes not from any true introspection, but instead a hasty, unsubstantiated reveal.
The film seems to be more focused on trying to paint this portrait of religious tension in the area, sketching out these little vignettes that depict the small ways in which Christian and Muslim are still very much separated. There is merit to that idea, but it doesn’t work in the context of the story they’ve set up. It doesn’t play with Sajid’s arc, and the few interactions he has with Catholics don’t amount to much in the long run. It doesn’t inform the central narrative in a way that means anything in the end.
This is all put together in a messy package of badly staged scenes. The choices can feel baffling. There is a flashback early on that shows one of the characters proposing to his girlfriend. This ostensibly romantic sequence ends with him talking about how the interest rate for the ring he bought is low. It is a strange note to end on, and one that is easily remedied. But that choice remains. The acting is spotty at best. Martin Escudero’s accent changes from scene to scene, and though he display enthusiasm for the role, this is likely to be considered a low for the actor.
Ang Misyon: A Marawi Siege Story can’t be faulted for its intentions, and it certainly makes those intentions clear enough. The movie ends with voiceover narration that spells out its call for peace, matching it with footage of Muslims and Christians getting along in the military context. It’s still a bad movie, though. There is a severe lack of filmmaking skill on display, the movie as a whole just struggling to just tell its story. The whole thing is a tedious slog made up of questionable storytelling choices that make everything more difficult than it really ought to be.