John Pilger’s The Coming War on China is an ominous examination of the war games between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
Pilger is a venerable Australian journalist who has made 60 documentaries about an impressive range of sociopolitical subjects such as the Vietnam War, the Cambodian genocide, Indigenous Australians and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He is often critical of Western foreign policy, but The Coming War on China is a largely even-handed documentary that will enlighten and perhaps challenge your position on Sino-American relations.
It opens with footage of a devastated Hiroshima and war-torn Vietnam while the pomp and circumstance of the Star Spangled Banner plays in stark contrast. This clear contradiction is a harbinger of what’s to come; both countries are criticised, but the United States’ transgressions are given particular emphasis (well, I’d argue that Hiroshima was not a transgression).
After the brief, foreboding title sequence, we are shown a montage of news clips reporting China’s militarisation of islands in the South China Sea, which is punctuated by some Fox News foghorn saying “we, the US, have to be much more aggressive in dealing with the Chinese government!” One suspects that this pundit is ignorant of the United States’ “pivot to Asia” policy, which is drastically increasing US presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
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‘The Loved Ones’ is ultimately an exercise in frustration and indignation.
‘The Loved Ones’ is a well-made film, but it’s also hollow and nasty. It takes a developed, sympathetic character and subjects him to an array of torture and humiliation at the hands of Lola and ‘Daddy’, a vile father/daughter serial killing partnership.
The film drew significant parallels with ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, a film I like. The difference between the two is that ‘The Loved Ones’ is far crueler; the protracted scenes of humiliation and violence left me utterly indignant. ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ is also an iconic, genre defining piece of work; this film is merely one of its many imitators.
Tough films such as the fellow Australian horror ‘Wolf Creek’ serve as an endurance test; they’re full of tension, suspense and eventually unflinching brutality. They’re straightforward and not particularly good, but they do have a purpose, albeit a doubtful one. ‘The Loved Ones’ however is just overbearingly frustrating; how can anyone derive anything but negative emotion out of watching an innocent character being tied to a chair and tortured?
As I watched their exploits, I realised that Lola and ‘Daddy’ were such reprehensible characters that no come-uppance would be satisfying enough, my growing bloodlust would have only been satiated if I’d been able to jump into the frame and exact hyper-violent justice myself.
The effect the film had on me is clearly testament to the power of it. There’s no doubt that it’s taut, well made and well-acted, however ‘The Loved Ones’ is ultimately an exercise in frustration and indignation.