Lots to love, but not the mode I prefer Spike Lee in. I’d rather he probe social issues than get plotty with a genre film like this, a solid heist story not devoid of atmosphere or cultural awareness—and with a good sense of mid-2000s New York life—but not as indelible or captivating as his great works.
A challenge of documentary filmmaking is often figuring out how to draw out the deepest of emotions in impartial ways, but it’s different here because you really can’t be biased toward such an egregious event as this. There’s no objectivity needed when it’s this horrifying, and amplifying the plight of these people is something Spike Lee does exceptionally, knowing right when to cue music or archival footage.
Tragedy is lovingly retold as a fantasy about the era that made Tarantino who he is. It’s an escapist fairytale told purposefully, using that “escapist” world-building template in the best way to communicate something intensely personal, namely a sheer love for a lost generation and a lost human life. These characters are more real and emotionally complex than any other Tarantino film, achieved without sacrificing any of the film’s comedic and fantastical flavor. A collection of nostalgic fantasies lead not to tragic loss but idealized reverie, ultimately conveying unmitigated love and childlike wonder.
How can a film shot mostly in Taipei prompt innumerable memories of my own life to flood my senses even though I’ve never been to East Asia and have no connection to Taiwanese culture? The persistent hushed aura fostered by a largely immobile camera (some tilts and pans but few axis movements) and contemplative pacing enriches the characters broader longing to block out the meaningless rush of life, while the bold, vivid colors represent—to me—them putting their heart out there…