An Atmospheric Thrill Ride
The Soul is an intriguing, atmospheric and well paced thrill-ride. Blending light sci-fi, horror and mystery elements together, this Taiwanese picture is a slow-burn packed with some great twists. There’s some nice ideas here around the soul (hence the title) and one’s own identity, helping to give this one more of a lasting impression than you may be expecting.
The story here opens with a grim crime scene. Police are called to the lavish mansion of Chairman Wang, who’s found dead in his bedroom. Strange ritualistic sigils seem to hint at something supernatural while bad blood between family members points elsewhere. Taking up this strange case is Liang Wen Chao.
Chao is suffering from cancer but refuses to let his condition debilitate him from work. His wife A Bao is expecting their child soon and together, the pair juggle this grim case with financial worries and big question marks around what their future holds. It’s a simple set-up, and one that forms the spine of this 2 hour picture.
As the movie progresses, critical suspects are brought to the foreground, including Wang Tian-Yu, Chairman Wang’s estranged son. Wang’s wife Li-Yan is equally as shifty, and in fact CCTV footage from the premises seems to hint at something more going on here. No spoilers of course!
The first hour essentially sets up a very intriguing and elaborate mystery box, which is slowly opened over the course of the second half. As twists and turns begin to filter into the movie, the case itself becomes clear and brings with it some fascinating and shocking reveals – right the way up to the final frame of the picture.
The concepts and ideas aren’t wholly original but they are used in a pretty compelling way. The smart decision to set this movie in the near-future allows for a more neo-noir feel than one may be expecting, with some really clever camera work and framing throughout.
At times the film does tend to overuse its long shots, with some scenes dragging on unnecessarily. It’s a minor gripe in truth, and once the movie reels you in with its mystery, it’s hard to take your eyes off it.
Partly the reason The Soul works as well as it does comes from the main cast. Chang Chen is absolutely sublime as Chao and throughout the movie he’s given some good moments to shine. The investigation does take center stage of course, but the quiet moments of reflection regarding his own situation are equally as powerful.
The Soul is an unusual, gripping and surprisingly clever thriller, one that manages to keep you guessing right up until the final moment. It’s a beautifully shot picture, armed with some great acting and some thought provoking concepts that pay off in a big way. This is certainly one of the more unique films released this year and a definite must-watch.