Touted as the Taiwanese version of M Night Shylaman’s 2016 Split, Plurality also deals with kidnappings and multiple personalities who vie for control of one body.
Tony Yang (楊祐寧) does a great job at portraying the distinct personas within him — despite their mannerisms being a bit exaggerated to distinguish them — and convincingly and single-handedly carries this action-packed, twist-filed thriller despite the flawed script filled with puzzling developments and improbable scenes.
At the very least, the backbone of the story (the personalities) and the surprise turns are solid, and if you’re just watching the movie for pure entertainment, it’s a pretty fun ride. Set in the near future, the film begins with a bus crash where nobody survives. Police are convinced that the criminal responsible for the kidnapping of a legislator’s son was on the bus, and using experimental technology they implant the personas of every person on board into Yang’s character (Case 193), who was in a vegetative state.
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It’s a fun idea as it departs from the traditional concept of multiple personalities, which are generally created within one person due to traumatic events. The personas in Plurality led distinct lives before being crammed into 193’s body and retain their memories, which allows for more freedom with storytelling, especially when they interact in a futuristic dreamworld inside the brain.
It was probably a wise idea to make it a small bus with just five people on board instead of trying to completely emulate Split, which features 23 personalities, as the screenwriters seem to barely make the premise work in Plurality. It makes it easier for the viewer to follow what’s going on as well.
Of course, the scientific process goes haywire during the interrogations, and Detective Wang (Frederick Lee, 李銘忠) and Dr Shen (Sandrine Pinna, 張榕容), who harbor their own motives and disapprove of each other’s methods, scramble to clean up the mess and solve the crime before it’s too late.
The two are capable actors who receive abundant screen time, but unfortunately their roles aren’t very memorable as they serve as one-dimensional characters who keep making inexplicable decisions just to drive the plot forward. As mentioned earlier, Yang is the main show here. He traverses between the world of 193’s consciousness and reality, dealing with immense adversity in both realms, struggles with identity and is forced to help solve a crime while every personality tries to get what they want.
The problem is that director Aozaru Shiao (蕭力修), who took a seven-year break from feature films to helm Public Television Service’s acclaimed series Wake Up (麻醉風雲), seems to have poured all of his creative juice into Yang’s character. The other personalities, played by notable thespians such as Chen Yi-wen (陳以文), who won Best Leading Actor at 2019’s Golden Horse Awards, and rising star Gingle Wang (王淨), who impressed in Detention (返校), are unfortunately also quite generic and forgettable, wasting their superb talent.
Plurality has obvious similarities with January’s excellent The Soul (緝魂, still in theaters), as both films are crime-thrillers set in the near future and feature experimental technology involving human consciousness. But the two will appeal to different types of audiences as The Soul is a grim, contemplative deep-dive while Plurality is more of a Hollywood-style fast-paced action jaunt.
Both have their worthy qualities, and are part of Taiwanese cinema’s fast-improving and trending sci-fi and crime-thriller portfolios. It’s hard not to be too derivative from the West’s long history of the genres, but the filmmakers are finding their own styles and at least trying to tell unique stories.
While there’s still quite a bit to gripe about, Plurality is definitely a positive step for the nation’s rapidly-evolving film scene.
DIRECTED BY: Aozaru Shiao (蕭力行)
STARRING: Tony Yang (楊祐寧) as 193, Frederick Lee (李銘忠) as Detective Wang, Sandrine Pinna (張榕容) as Dr Shen
LANGUAGES: Mandarin and Taiwanese with Chinese and English subtitles
RUNNING TIME: 106 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: In theaters
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