REVIEW: Silent Witness (2013)

Tong Tao gets called in to prosecute the daughter of a sleazy business mogul he has been trying to take down for years.


By Raymond Arcega
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Silent Witness

Original Title: 全民目擊
Year: 2013
Country: China
Language: Mandarin
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Director: Fei Xing

Lin Tai (Sun Honglei) is a successful business tycoon known for his shady and illegal practices. He has been headhunted for years by prosecutor Tong Tao (Aaron Kwok), who has sworn to not rest until he makes Lin Tai pay for crimes. Tong is called to duty when an incident happens involving Lin Tai’s daughter, Mengmeng (Deng Jiajia). She gets arrested on the account of murder. The victim: Lin Tai’s fiance Yang Dan (Cica Zhou).

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Defense attorney Zhou Li (Yu Nan) is called to action to defend Mengmeng in court. As she and prosecutor Tong dive deeper and deeper into this case, they discover that they are merely peeling away layers of lies, deceit, and puzzles.

Long story short, Silent Witness is a definite watch for people who, well, love good movies.

The story is told through several chapters, each from the eyes of the three main characters – prosecutor Tong Tao, defense attorney Zhou Li, and tycoon Lin Tai. What each chapter does is provide a non-linear tale, which each part rewinding the story a bit to give insight on that character’s experiences. Each time a new story is told, questions about what happened at certain times are answered.

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But interestingly enough, a new question is raised every time one is solved. What that does is create a very effective element of engagement for the viewer, keeping them on the edge of their seat.

Stacked on this crazy murder-mystery story is non-stop energy. It’s almost comparable to commercials hyping up the excitement of a major boxing match, in which everything from dynamic camera angles and slow-motion effects are used (thankfully not as overused as the ones in 300). The high-energy styling is accented by the gripping performances of the three leads.

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Aaron Kwok is ridiculously intense to the point that some might call over-the-top, but his style fit very well in creating the character of prosecutor Tong Tao. Yu Nan’s Zhou Li is calm and calculating, the kind of character who you don’t know what she has up her sleeve until she reveals it. However, the loudest applause should go towards Sun Honglei’s Lin Tai. He was charismatic, arrogant, and overall a sleaze, but was excellent at being the perfect opponent to cross courtroom swords with prosecutor Tong Tao.

Aaron Kwok’s character has been often compared to video game series Ace Attorney‘s lead character Phoenix Wright. Both characters wear similar outfits, and like to point at the witness when calling them out. Even Yu Nan bears a striking similarity to Mia Fey, Phoenix’s mentor. The similarities continue on in the stories, in which to find the true answer to the mystery, the characters have to flip logic on its head.

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However, the character of Tong Tao is quite different than Phoenix Wright. For one, he’s not a defense attorney. Also, he doesn’t juggle through his notes like some disorganized idiot; he’s quite thorough and has his stuff together, capable enough to get the witness to spill the beans with his clever words.

But one thing that both works have in common is the clever murder-mystery stories they present for us to enjoy. Silent Witness doesn’t dive into the supernatural like Ace Attorney does, but still present ideas and schemes that seem outlandish, but overall fitting for the drama in the courtroom.

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Silent Witness is definitely one for fans of crime genre films. It has a way with keeping you engaged the whole way through. It controls you with its nonstop energy, leading you through twists and turns until a little bit before the end, when all questions are finally answered, and director Fei Xing says with a sly smile “Okay. NOW you can breathe.”

And to think. This is only Fei Xing’s second time in the director’s chair. THE SECOND! I await his next work.


Watch this film…

…if you enjoy adrenaline-pumping performances and murder-mysteries.


About the Author

Raymond Arcega

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