Call of the wild

Lo­cal ac­tion-drama Tom­biruo: Pe­nunggu Rimba is a vi­su­allystun­ning en­deav­our.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - Re­view by KEN­NETH CHAW en­ter­tain­ment@thes­ ‘Has any­one seen my shirt?’ — Hand­out

Tom­biruo: Pe­nunggu Rimba Di­rec­tor: Seth Lar­ney

Cast: Zul Arif­fin, Na­bila Huda, Farid Kamil, Faizal Hus­sein, Datuk M. Nasir, Has­nul Rahmat, Michael Chen, Faye Ku­sairi, Dy­nas Mokhtar TOM­BIRUO: Pe­nunggu Rimba is truly a feast for the eyes.

The lo­cal film, based on a pop­u­lar novel of the same name by Ram­lee Awang Mur­shid, cen­tres on the mys­te­ri­ous name­sake pro­tag­o­nist played by Zul Arif­fin.

Born with a dis­fig­ured face, Tom­biruo hides be­hind a mask and lives high atop the tree lines in the jun­gles of Bor­neo.

Half-man and half-myth­i­cal be­ing, Tom­biruo not only pos­sesses su­per­hu­man strength but the lush for­est around him seems to be an ex­ten­sion of him­self. Branches and vines coil around his en­e­mies at his be­hest.

His pow­ers are put to use when a nearby vil­lage gets at­tacked, killing his fa­ther (Faizal Hus­sein). The

Now Show­ing tragic event sets him on a jour­ney to avenge his fa­ther’s death.

Along the way, he crosses paths with a busi­ness­man, Tan Sri Ber­ham (Datuk M. Nasir), who ini­tially had plans to build a dam in the area.

There’s also Wan Su­raya (Na­bila Huda), a re­lent­less jour­nal­ist who be­lieves there is more to the at­tack on the vil­lage than meets the eye.

The film is a vis­ual spec­ta­cle from start to fin­ish, es­pe­cially on scenes de­pict­ing the deep in­te­ri­ors of the jun­gle. Di­rected by Seth Lar­ney and with Nasir Jani cred­ited as as­so­ciate di­rec­tor, the breathtaking views don’t just look pretty, they draw view­ers into Tom­biruo’s world.

My favourite mo­ment ar­rives at the very be­gin­ning of the film which delves into Tom­biruo’s back­story – it’s cap­tured so el­e­gantly I felt a pinch of pride.

While it was good the film­mak­ers spared no ex­pense in per­fect­ing its cin­e­matog­ra­phy, I wished they had di­alled back a lit­tle on their use of com­puter-gen­er­ated im­agery (CGI).

Be­ing partly fan­tas­ti­cal, CGI had to be em­ployed to bring cer­tain im­ageries to life (such as the sinewy tree vines reach­ing out to its vic­tims).

Un­for­tu­nately, some over-the-top ac­tion se­quences make the oth­er­wise classy pro­duc­tion look rather cheesy at some parts. CGI-wise, less is more here.

In terms of sto­ry­telling, the ac­tion-drama is rife with clever plot twists, save one or two plot holes (then again, they may be an­swered later, if it gets a se­quel.)

It’s also nice to see its fe­male lead, Wan Su­raya, de­picted as much more than a love in­ter­est. She’s no damsel-in-dis­tress; she’s fear­less and as a jour­nal­ist, her char­ac­ter serves as the eyes and ears of the au­di­ence – cru­cial to the story’s devel­op­ment. Last year’s Malaysia Film Fes­ti­val Best Ac­tress win­ner Na­bila’s por­trayal of Wan Su­raya ef­fec­tively cap­tures her bold­ness and strength.

Mean­while, lead­ing man Zul prob­a­bly had the hard­est job to do, with his face ob­scured by a mask and with very few lines to say.

De­spite what lit­tle he had to work with, Zul man­ages to get across the heart of the char­ac­ter and his mo­ti­va­tions.

His com­mit­ment to em­body­ing the role – drop­ping 12kg in less than a month – paid off as it lends cred­i­bil­ity to his por­trayal of such a phys­i­cal char­ac­ter.

The cast gives solid per­for­mances across the board (even ac­tors with mi­nor roles shine) which truly helps el­e­vate the film.

Tom­biruo: Pe­nunggu Rimba isa gutsy, grand en­deav­our. It shows that lo­cal film­mak­ers need not be afraid to take on sto­ries that are com­plex in ex­e­cu­tion.

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