The first ever Weekend Trailer Roundup has finally come to a close, and with it comes a trailer worth watching- Graceland, a Filipino thriller directed by Ron Morales. As opposed to the other two this weekend, this is an intelligent and incredibly engaging film advertisement- so much so that I forgot I was supposed to be writing a review while watching it (my initial draft of this review contained nothing but the words “I’d like to see that)”.
A big part of why this trailer is so successful is that it opens with nothing in focus but a massive pile of trash. Those early moments don’t establish easy exposition or give any kind of framework to the story; instead the trailer opens under a shroud of ambiguity, with just enough information being parsed out (through the actor’s face and body language, along with a line or two of dialogue) to build up an emotional reaction and make people curious as to why this man is shrieking his lungs out in the middle of a garbage dump.
By the end of the trailer, the story does in fact become clear. The protagonist’s daughter is kidnapped, and he has to travel through the seedy underbelly of society in order to get her back. Other than that (and barring one potentially huge plot point at the very end), the story’s not important- at least, not as far as the trailer is concerned. The focus is on establishing the look and feel of the film, and its major themes are given far more screen time than any plot detail. There’s the massive divide between rich and poor, the father/daughter bond, and the impact of US culture on the Philippines- look to the brief snippets of English that characters use and the swanky, Americanized home of the rich man on the phone. The trailer’s music even makes a contribution, blending classic American horror-movie piano tinkle with traditional percussion. Yet despite its intellectual leanings, the trailer never drags, thanks to plenty of sharp dramatic cuts and an emphasis on the harshest aspects of the film’s criminal underworld- gun violence, child prostitution, and brutal kidnappings.
First and foremost, however, this is an advertisement, and a generous portion of the trailer is devoted to hyping the film’s cinematic credentials, proudly displaying festival honors and praise culled from favorable reviews. It’s not enough to distract from the trailer, but the last quote or two comes dangerously close to crossing that threshold. Still, Graceland is the clear winner this weekend, and its trailer accomplishes the one thing a trailer is meant to do: make people want to see the movie.