Battle of Memories (Ji yi da shi) (2017) [New York Asian Film Festival 2017]

Following a procedure to store away a part of his memories and changing his mind, he ends up with memories of murders he may or may not have committed.

Written by Peng (Ryan) Ren and directed by Leste Chen, together they create a sci-fi/thriller hybrid with very good ideas and character that pull the viewer in and keeps them interested.  The film takes the idea of memories and what can happen when you remove and/or return them and what the risk would be to get someone else’s memories and turns it into a thriller with a few twists and turns that turns out to be more whodunit than science-fiction.  The film develops these ideas slowly, very slowly; making it feel like it could have been shorted or at the very least reworked a bit to keep the tension throughout.  Parts of the film are slow and lose the viewer’s attention which is unfortunately as they lead to an ending that is worth seeing and fun to watch unfold with a few surprises in store.  The story has good and great ideas that are well developed but they are paced oddly with some scenes feeling absolutely too long while others are just about perfect.  Those almost perfect scenes happen often enough to make the slow, less interesting ones more bearable or forgivable.

The characters are well written and interpreted, through the strong and the weaker scenes.  As the lead with the mixed up memories, Bo Huang shows strength while showing his character’s weaknesses and troubles.  He takes his character and imbues him with nuances which create connection to the viewer through his emotions and how he never gives up.  Playing his wife with the right amount of emotions and a lot of honesty is Jinglei Xu.  She shows a lot of talent while handling sensitive scenes and touchy situations.  She shows a great range and almost makes one wish she were the lead as she seems just a little more in touch with her character’s inner self and shows this on screen very well.  The rest of the cast is also quite good, with no one being a sore thumb, creating a strong ensemble cast.

The film has a few different looks, one for the memories that are the lead’s, one for those that aren’t his, one for what is currently happening. These all come together to create a cohesive style that help the story along and help the viewer make sense of the different scenes when things go from one place to the other, from one set of memories to the other passing by real life bits.  The cinematography by Charlie Lam paired with the editing by Hongyu Yang creates these looks and how the film goes from one to the other.  Together, the cinematography and editing bring a lot to the film’s plate and connects the dots between the multiple story angles and visual styles perfectly.  The film looks good throughout and this brings the viewer in further into the story.  A few sequences including one with a bathtub repeating infinitely and scenes at the memory removal clinic are stunning and captivating by not only how they were shot and edited, but also through the acting and the way the sets look.  The art direction in those sequences as well as the rest of the film shows that attention to details was high from Shun-fu Luo, Zhanzhi Shen, and Sutham Viravandej, something that is highly important in a film of this kind.

Battle of Memories has some great sequences, good acting, and great attention to details.  The story has some truly tense moments, but the slower, less well paced scenes do take a bit away from these creating parts of the film where it feels long and where the attention tends to drift away.  In general, the film is decently interesting and entertaining even though it could have used with a tightening of a few scenes and sequences.