"Formosa Betrayed" a haunting history lesson





Illuminating another dark chapter in recent political history and U.S. foreign policy, "Formosa Betrayed" is a straightforward, workmanlike procedural "inspired by actual events" during the communism-obsessed Reagan era.

James Van Der Beek leads the film's efficient, fuss-free performances, playing an FBI agent awakened to the reality behind the official story when a murder investigation takes him to Taiwan, a.k.a Formosa.

Given the island's economic importance and the ongoing dispute over its identity and independence, the story's international implications still reverberate. The indie, which opens Friday, is more informative than cinematic, and its theatrical release should be supplemented by a healthy run as a home video title.

Director Adam Kane's refusal to exaggerate the drama's sweep is commendable, and the script, credited to four writers, refreshingly doesn't make the American's personal redemption more important than wide-ranging political revelations. But the film's bare-bones expository approach is also a detriment, particularly in the early going, which has the flat, uninspired feel of a small-screen whodunit....

At the heart of the film is the affecting performance of Will Tiao, who also produced and co-wrote the story. As pro-independence activist Ming, he's called upon to supply the facts concerning a 1947 atrocity known as the 228 Massacre, but also to represent the emotional toll on native Taiwanese struggling to be free of foreign control, including that of Beijing....

At its plainspoken best, the U.S.- and Thailand-shot film is an eye-opening history lesson more than an atmospheric thriller. It's nonetheless chilling as it exposes the machinations between countries with no official relationship.


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