On the Job: The Missing 8

On the Job: The Missing 8 ★★★★½

What struck me was how consistently bleak it is. This is not a story of good versus evil, not a story of how a good journalist sticking to his ideals can maybe affect change in this sad republic. The movie portrays a nation so hopelessly entrenched in corruption that the only way for even good people to make any progress is to get their hands dirty, too. You have lean on your connections, make horrible compromises that will lead to other people getting hurt. Everything has to be a calculation: will the end justify the means? How much of your soul do you really have left?

It's a terribly painful story told in an entertaining fashion. It's bleak, but sometimes it's funny. It's long, but there's always so much going on. We see all these worlds broken down. There are politicians playing chess games against each other, not really caring about the people that end up dying as a result. We see this inherently broken relationship with the media, which involves payoffs out in the open, taken as a basic courtesy for attending a press conference. We see these prisons that have never been about rehabilitation, that have never really cared about whether the men inside are guilty or not. The film tackles these absurdities with deadpan delivery, eliciting sick, sad laughs that just managed to keep me from completely falling apart.

I think it could stand to be a little less entertaining, actually. Some of the stuff that happens in the movie hits a little close to home, and I don't think I'll ever be ready to be thrilled by a depiction of certain events. It's impressive, at any rate. It takes a real skilled filmmaker to build this kind of rhythm; to make navigating these broken systems feel exciting, and to give tragedy its own pulse.

This is a sprawling, cynical tale that doesn't stop punching, anyway. It knows full well how impossible change would be to achieve in this country, where power has always been in the hands of people who would like things to stay the way they are. But you dream that impossible dream, and though it's likely we'll come out of it compromised, hurt, or dead, we've got to keep tilting at windmills, just hoping we'll nick a dragon along the way.