Infernal Affairs (2002) Review

Verdict: Exciting

Intricate plots, with great acting and editing.


Inspector Lau (Andy Lau) is a triad member who has infiltrated to the top ranks of the police system. Wing Yan (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) is an undercover cop who has worked with the triad for the past ten years. When a triad operation goes bust, Superintendent Wong (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong) and the head of one of the triads, Sam (Eric Tsang) realize they both have a mole in their group. Sam is the one who plotted Lau into the police, and similarly, Superintendent Wong is the only person who knows of Ming’s true identity as a cop. Lau and Ming are both told to find the mole by both head figures, as they have to pretend to find the mole in their undercover operations (i.e. themselves) and flush out the mole from the organization they are originally with. Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.

I watched this film after reading many scholarly articles about it, as I had planned to write a paper focusing on this film, and had to do research on it. I had not much time to watch the film before researching, so decided to research first and watch later. From reading all the articles on this film and the trilogy, I felt that I really understood what the film is about. However, because I read so many things about it, the film felt a bit hyped up, and it raised my expectations for it.

Infernal Affairs is a film that has its roots in Hong Kong’s historical and political background, and once this is understood, it adds many depths to the film. This play on double identity, and going undercover is related to how the people of Hong Kong struggle to find an identity as ‘Hong Konger’, as past colonial powers and the oppressive presence of China have large influences in hindering the formulation of their own identity.

The acting is pretty great in this. Andy Lau has established himself as a very famous actor and singer. His acting is pretty good, but I kind of feel that his face gives off a pretty innocent and childlike aura. Tony Leung does a great job, and the film centralizes on him a little bit more I feel. We identify with him as he struggles to gain his identity back and the use of close ups of his facial expressions really convey his character’s emotions. Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang also do a good job with their respective parts.

The cinematography and editing are also pretty impressive. I really liked how they juxtaposed the younger versions of the two protagonists with their older selves at the end, that was cool. The many rooftop scenes are interesting as well, with fantastic shooting of the reflections in the skyscrapers.

 I also found the story to be very engaging. Of course undercover cops aren’t anything new, but they aren’t so common, plus there are two undercover characters and that makes the action twice as engaging. Also, since the film is heavily rooted in the country’s background, that gives a local feel to it while still opening its doors to the international public. (It has been remade into a Hollywood film called, The Departed). Even though I have not watched the Hollywood remake, just by watching the trailer I know it will give off a totally different feel. I personally think the original will be better since the tension in this film is spot-on, while Hollywood just makes everything (mostly) into a swearing, bloody battle.

My only critique is that the film jumps around sometimes from different timelines or in different spaces and that can be confusing. The story drifted a bit at times too, and there are instances in which events that occurred were questionable.

Overall, an engaging film with great acting, cinematography and editing.

To sum-up:
PROS: Acting, story, cinematography, editing
CONS: Jump cuts, drifted a bit

I give this an 8/10.

Have you seen Infernal Affairs? Rate it out of 5 stars above or leave a comment below!


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