Critical Eleven (2017): An Anti-Romance Romance Film

Review: With a title referring to an aviation term, critical eleven – three minutes after taking off and eight minutes before landing, where a plane is at the highest risk of crashing – Critical Eleven is not an actual film about flights; instead, it is a romantic manifestation of those critical minutes in a relationship.

According to the film (adapted from Ika Natassa’s bestseller of the same title), the same term is applicable to a meet-cute as well; the first three minutes of crafting impression, and final eight of leaving an impression. And yet, the very same term is also applicable to enjoying this story, too. If the first three minutes (not exactly) gets you enthralled, you’ll desperately need to get prepared for the final eight minutes.

By the beginning of the first three minutes (again, not exactly), we meet Tanya Baskoro a.k.a. Anya (elegantly portrayed by Adinia Wirasti at her chicest) as she encounters Aldebaran Risjad a.k.a. Ale (Reza Rahadian with no complaint attached) on a flight to Sydney. By the end of the ‘three minutes’,  Anya and Ale would have married each other and moved to New York, started fresh, started over, and been the cutest adult couple in town. Anya, a marketing consultant and a slave of jet-set life, decides to leave her passion only to be closer to her husband who works in an oil rig company in Mexican offshore. Again, by the time of the ‘three minutes’, they would’ve been the happiest couple alive.

“Only in New York… can you find Broadway… see the glimmering lights shining so bright.” That’s an onscreen lyric from a song accompanying Anya and Ale’s joyous venture in the Big Apple. Yet, unbeknownst to them, the same city is one that brings storms onto their laps. Ego, devotion, and too much love for each other, over-adorn Anya’s pregnancy and plague the perfect couple with a series of conflict and malignancy. Now, how would the last ‘eight minutes’ mean to their relationship?

Critical Eleven offers a rare case of marital conflict between two distinctive human beings. The notion of two too-good-to-be-true humans, in love with and loathe each other at the same time over grief, might only happen in a specific, small circle of people; but, that kind of marriage crisis is real. The good news is, Critical Eleven is able to deliver it to the audience and makes it digestible as well as believable. Even, this film can also make a larger-than-life conflict grounded in reality more than any most Indonesian adult-romance films.

Through and through, it’s Adinia Wirasti and Reza Rahadian who power Critical Eleven to be that digestible. Not only have they incarnated perfectly into Anya and Ale respectively, individually; they also excel in the work as unison – a marriage body, not just two individuals who happen to marry each other. There are natural intimacy and complexity spawned in their chemistry that makes all the laugh, the tears, the kiss, the affections, the bitterness and the tragedy vivid to eyes… and heart.

Wirasti and Rahadian transcend at many levels. Their chemistry is adding depth to this conflict-driven character study and rescuing the ineffective script (written by Jenny Jusuf, Monty Tiwa, Robert Ronny and the author, Ika Natassa). In this script, Ika Natassa’s Critical Eleven is deconstructed and is reconstructed into a more linear and coherent story. With the story in chronological order (while some important flashbacks still exist), Critical Eleven is more enjoyable – despite losing some revelation moments; at the same time, it becomes more prone to prolixity and dragging duration. In addition, a series of grunts and squawks from the novel are crafted into some more contemplative moments, which means good news.

While some scenes can be trimmed down and some points can be presented as meaningful subtexts, the script is actually pretty neat and dialogue-heavy (in Jenny Jusuf’s standard). If Natassa’s books are usually highly quotable, the film makes it more quotable with catchier pick-up lines, courtesy of Ms. Jusuf. Though I had high expectations that that ‘I need you back home and naked ASAP’ would make it, but it didn’t.

As a romantic film, Critical Eleven often appears to be anti-romantic. However, when it is romantic, it is romantic; and when it is not romantic, it is still romantic… from a side point of view. The flight to the top quality is fueled by Adinia Wirasti and Reza Rahadian’s jet-powered chemistry. If not for the shanghaiing duration, Critical Eleven would’ve made a more compelling anti-romance romance film, in which it excels.

Critical Eleven (2017) 2h 15min | Romance | 10 May 2017 (Indonesia) Summary: Ale and Anya first met on a flight from Jakarta to Sydney. Anya lured on the first three minutes, seven hours later they were sitting next to each other and know each other through ... See full summary »
Countries: IndonesiaLanguages: Indonesian

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