Infernal Affairs (2002)

After watching Infernal Affairs, I thought to myself, “Hey, this film is awfully similar to The Departed.” The Departed is another film which I have watched before many years back. I looked it up and yes, both films are similar in plot and I immediately jumped to the conclusion that Infernal Affairs was based of/a remake of The Departed, until I looked at the release dates for both films. My oh my, was I pleasantly surprised. It’s the other way round – The Departed was actually a remake of Infernal Affairs.

The common impression back then (and still today, perhaps) was that no other film industries could compete with Hollywood. Hollywood seemed to be dominating the film business, with its films having strong influences all around the world. But Infernal Affairs proved otherwise. Yes, perhaps Hollywood has a stronger influence, bigger production budget and internationally well-known stars; but what Infernal Affairs managed to brought to the table was new. Perhaps it was the uniqueness of the plot. Perhaps it was the surprise plot twist. Whatever it was, the film got the attention of famous Hollywood director Martin Scorsese, and he decided to do The Departed, basing it off of Infernal Affairs.

Like I said earlier, maybe Martin Scorsese decided to make a remake of Infernal Affairs due to its clever plot. Or maybe he simply wanted to spread the underlying message of the film. Deep down, Infernal Affairs was about the struggles of two very different men. However, both wanted the same thing – freedom.

Yan, a cop, had been undercover for almost 10 years. And all these years had made him restless. He wanted to be normal person again, living normally out on the streets, not hiding his identity.

For Yan, he wanted his old life back. However, for Lau, it’s slightly different. Lau was a member of a triad gang, who happened to be working undercover as well, but in the police force (the opposite of Yan). Lau had been selected by his boss to be a mole for the triad, ensuring they are one step ahead of the police at all times. However, as the plot evolved, Lau contemplated about his life. All his life he had been following his boss’s orders and felt that he needed to make his own life decisions.

Lau’s desire for freedom differs to that of Yan’s as he wanted independence of his own life. But all in all, both of them wanted the same thing. As I have mentioned earlier, perhaps this film carries an underlying message about the current state of the society, be it in China or worldwide. Maybe it’s to highlight the state of corruption in the world, or maybe it’s to highlight the different internal struggles everyone face in life. Whatever the message was, it’s a reflection of the zeitgeist of the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

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2 thoughts on “Infernal Affairs (2002)

  1. You are right! I too, have this tendency to assume that every great film originates from the West. Infernal Affairs definitely brought something new and unique to the crime film genre – I particularly enjoyed the multiple plot twits! Just like you mentioned, I also agreed that the film reflected the zeitgeist of those times but missed out on realizing that there could have been more than one underlying message or theme in this film. Other than highlighting the triad and drug smuggling issues or shedding light on Hong Kong’s film identity crisis, I overlooked the implications of “fighting for freedom” – the internal struggle that the people of Hong Kong were going through during the reunification of China. Great insights Izwandi!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey iz! I have always thought that no other film industry can direct a movie as perfectly as the Hollywood. The Hollywood film industry has directed and released many crime and action genre movies which were always top notch. But man was I wrong. Infernal Affairs is the only Chinese film I have watched and I think the movie’s awesome. I agree when you mentioned both undercovers wanted a freedom of their own despite the different purpose of wanting the freedom. And yes, I too personally felt that this film had a deep message to the world. It serves to inform society the harsh reality we are all living in. Anyway, thank you for sharing with me about the Hollywood remake of this film!

    Liked by 1 person

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