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Film / A Dangerous Life

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And you thought Indonesia had it bad.

An Australian Made-for-TV Movie released in 1988, about an American journalist named Tony O'Neil (played by Gary Busey) who flies to Manila and covers the last years of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, beginning with the assassination of opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, and concluding in the People Power Revolution of 1986, which overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. Originally released as a six-part miniseries.

While it features Filipino actors, some of the scenes were shot in Sri Lanka and Australia. Worth noting that the Philippines itself has yet to make its own movies about these events because they are still too recent to many—most of the major political players involved are still alive and in positions of power and/or influence.

Includes the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Imelda Marcos. Though the more-than-usually melodramatic way she's portrayed here by Tessie Tomas (and the real Imelda is no slouch at melodrama herself—not to mention Filipinos being very melodramatic people to begin with) makes her seem to toe the line between this and Faux Affably Evil.
  • Alliterative Name: The Marcoses' actors—Ruben Rustia as Ferdinand and Tessie Tomas as Imelda.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Or Red and Yellow moralitynote . The Aquinos' side are portrayed as near-perfectly good against the Marcoses who are near-perfectly evil, even if in Real Life things were never that simple.
    • Although the movie came out barely two years after the real People Power Revolution, so it's understandable why most people—both in the Philippines and abroad—were still uncritically euphoric over the Revolution's success. Most of the problems that would later plague Cory's rule—and by extension the rest of the post-1986 political order—largely due to the potent lingering effects of Marcos's rule, had yet to become apparent.
  • Blame Game: Marcos blames the Communists for shooting Ninoy dead. Everyone else blames Marcos (and/or Imelda).
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Yellow quickly becomes the "political colour" of the Aquinos and the middle-class opposition they lead, and yellow ribbons are ever-present from the crowds awaiting Ninoy's arrival at the airport in 1983, to the crowds that finally throw the Marcoses out in 1986.Background 
    • Red is, curiously, the political colour of both the Marcos dictatorship, and of the Communist rebels and their student-activist allies marching in the streets against the Marcoses. It's less obvious with the Marcoses though—it's just a dichotomy brought up against the yellow-themed Aquinos—but the Communists, on the other hand, do have at least the semblance of an ideological reason for using red.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Rolando Galman—the other guy shot dead at the Manila airport—is initially blamed for Ninoy Aquino's murder. It was quickly revealed to be rather implausible, and even Tony sees through the ploy, because a) Galman had no known political motives to suddenly want to kill Aquino; and b) the downward angle at which the bullet entered Ninoy's skull would clear Galman's name, as he was on the ground, and Ninoy still descending the service steps, when he was shot.
  • Defector from Decadence: Marcos' renegade generals and advisors—Juan Ponce Enrile, Fidel Ramos, Gringo Honasan … and, oddly, Tiger Tecson, a separate character based on, and physically resembling, the Real Life Honasan (more so in fact than the in-universe Honasan himself!).
  • Don't Create a Martyr: Marcos, at least according to him, cited this as proof that he couldn't have ordered Ninoy's assassination—at least that it wasn't his decision. Imelda for her part states that she did in fact warn Ninoy not to return home from the U.S., given that someone else might kill him back in Manila and thus trigger this trope anyway.
  • Eagle Land: Type 2, in the sense that Tony's well-convinced that Washington in general, and Reagan in particular, has been propping up the Marcos regime all this time. The word "imperialist" isn't used, but it might as well be in this case.
  • Electric Torture: Celie Balamo gets subjected to this when captured by government riot police.
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: The government's opinion of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines–New People's Army), which it blames for Ninoy's murder.
  • Foreign Correspondent: Tony O'Neil and Angie Fox, naturally.
  • Genre Savvy: The Marcoses deny responsibility for Ninoy's assassination since they claim to be aware how it could backfire. It backfires on them anyway.
  • Gratuitous English: The Philippines by default has English as a common second language (sometimes first, in fact, for many educated families), but the masses and even middle classes tend to use Tagalog a lot in everyday use, even if mixed with English loanwords. Still, many native Filipino characters here are depicted as talking in straight English where they would be more likely speaking Tagalog. Possibly due to casting South Asian and non-Filipino Southeast Asian extras obviously familiar only with English.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: The Agrava Commission. In this case the Marcos government itself appears to be on trial, so the perception is that the Marcoses called the probe to deflect public suspicion on themselves—but some of Marcos' generals, in particular Fabian Ver, are called in and questioned regarding the circumstances of the Aquino assassination.
  • Inspirational Martyr: Ninoy Aquino. Tony remarks that the turnout for his funeral was "bigger than Gandhi's".
  • Intrepid Reporter: On the foreign side, Tony and Angie. On the local side, Ben Balamo.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Tony gets involved with Celie Balamo. (This is actually a common pairing—white Western men with brown Filipina women. Also, "yellow" in this case has nothing to do with the Aquinos, though it's their signature colour—although Cory, whose maiden name is Cojuangco, actually is of Chinese descent—which basically makes her "yellow" in that other sense as well.)
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: It's not extreme, but many supposedly-Filipino characters are played by actors whose English seems inflected with moderate Malaysian, Singaporean or Hong Kong accents, instead of harder or more Americanised actual Filipino accents. (As much of it was shot in Sri Lanka, English-speaking locals were cast as extras and even minor supporting cast.)
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Colonel Tiger Tecson is a thinly-veiled Expy of the Real Life Col. Gringo Honasan …
    • Expy Coexistence: … who also exists in this universe. In fact, Honasan's literally one of Tiger's shooting buddies, who gets introduced by name right after Tiger is. Their first scene involves them both shooting the daylights out of a Marcos propaganda poster.
  • Police Brutality: The Metrocomnote  hose-down and beat the Mendiola riots into submission. Snipers involved shoot down a number of protesters, including Emilio Balamo. Celie is also captured in the same demonstration and subsequently tortured.
  • Sarcastic Confession: The response of Washington attaché Mike Heseltine when Tony grills him about Reagan's Washington possibly being The Man Behind the Man to the Marcoses regarding the Aquino assassination.
    Mike Heseltine: "Okay, whatever you say, we set the whole thing up."
    Tony O'Neil: "I'm sure you did."
    Mike Heseltine: "I paid Galmannote  personally!"
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Year of Living Dangerously. Both movies are about Western journalists covering a pro-American, maritime Southeast Asian country in political turmoil—one about to enter a dictatorship, the other a dictatorship on its last legs. Both movies even have titles about "dangerous living". Possibly an Enforced Trope since one of the writers on The Year of Living Dangerously went on to write for this one.
    • Interestingly, The Year of Living Dangerously was set in Indonesia but shot in the Philippines, whilst A Dangerous Life is set in the Philippines but shot in Sri Lanka, for the most part.
  • Stock Footage: Of Ninoy Aquino's final interview, and of his last minutes alive before exiting his plane.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The slain Ninoy Aquino, at least as he's depicted here.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The movie is set in the Philippines.