"Not So Thrilling Thriller"
What You Need To Know:
FORMOSA BETRAYED is a slow-moving thriller with many scenes of political discussion where characters discuss 50 years of Taiwan’s history. The biggest problem is that the movie’s main character does very little. While the violence is limited to only a few scenes, it is portrayed very graphically with much blood. Democracy is held up as the ideal form of government for Taiwan, and communism is portrayed as being a corrupt, tyrannical form of government. America’s divided loyalty to both China and Taiwan is criticized. Strong caution is warranted for the violence and some strong foul language.
(B, P, AC, AP, C, LL, VVV, A, D, M) Light moral worldview with pro-democratic American values and anti-communist elements as well as Anti-American elements and one positive scene in a church and an image of the Cross; 10 mostly mild obscenities with one “f” word and five profanities; very strong but brief violence with much blood such as men shot in head, woman and young girl shot with much blood, man tortured with a blowtorch, police beat rioters with clubs; no sexual content; no nudity; drinking of alcohol in a bar; smoking; and, political corruption exposed and man chased by gangsters.
Set in 1983 and based on actual events, FORMOSA BETRAYED is the story of FBI Agent Jake Kelly attempting to find the murderer of an American professor, who was born in Taiwan. What starts as a run of the mill murder investigation by the FBI sends Jake to Taiwan, formerly called Formosa.
There, he is met by local police, government officials and embassy liaisons who are intent on keeping Jake away from the information. They try to “wine and dine” him so he will not genuinely investigate.
Jake follows leads, however, and discovers a conspiracy that the Taiwanese government itself was behind the murder of the professor. The professor was about to publish a book which would have told the relatively unknown story of how Chinese nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek retreated to the island of Formosa but eventually killed about 28,000 people who disagreed with his policies. Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of Free China and retreated to the island of Formosa (now Taiwan) to escape Mao’s communist forces in China in 1947.
On Formosa, Chiang gained popularity and began to rule Taiwan. The indigenous people embraced him at first but some began to feel they had been betrayed. A pro-democracy movement began and the murdered professor was part of that movement, which was why he was murdered.
Thirty-six years later, Jake becomes embroiled in the political aftermath of these events but is sent back to the U.S. There, he quits the FBI when the agency won’t move on his investigation and its conclusion of a Taiwanese government conspiracy. It is stated at the end that the events depicted in the story led to the eventual establishment of democracy in Taiwan.
FORMOSA BETRAYED is a slow moving thriller that contains many scenes of political discussion and characters filling in the American FBI agent with details of the last 50 years of Taiwan’s history. The biggest problem is that the movie’s main character Jake does very little in the story. At one point, one character says, “How can an FBI agent not know he’s being followed?” which is a question viewers had already been asking. Another character wonders why an agent with such a little understanding of Taiwan would be sent on this investigation. Jake simply goes from person to person asking questions.
The only action in this thriller is seeing people assassinated and one scene of rioting. Jake himself is not involved in any of the action except for one scene of running away from the Chinese mafia. While the violence is limited to only a few shots and scenes, they are portrayed very graphically with much blood.
A complete understanding of Taiwan’s history would be helpful to following the plot. The movie holds up democracy as the ideal form of government for Taiwan, and communism is portrayed as being a corrupt, tyrannical form of government. America’s loyalty to China (officially the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan officially as an independent nation but also has signed treaties to defend Taiwan against China) is painted as negative and film clips of President Nixon and Chairman Mao of China explain that this was the beginning of the end for Taiwan’s hopes for independence. FBI agent Jake says at the beginning of the story that his oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies was his motivation for joining the agency, but during the course of the movie he begins to blame the US for befriending both Mao and Chiang Kai-shek and not stepping in to keep Taiwan free and democratic.
One of our editors at MOVIEGUIDE® had Dr. Peng Ming-min, one of the leaders of the independence democracy movement in Taiwan among the indigenous Formosan people, for his professor in international politics in Dayton, Ohio in the early 1970s. Dr. Peng’s dreams of democracy for the people living in Taiwan eventually came true. In fact, he was one of the candidates in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996, in which he advocated a Taiwan independent of both China and the United States but opposed to China’s belligerent attitude toward the island where he was born. You can find an article by him on this subject that was published in 1996 in the New York Times at http://www.hi-on.org.tw/ad/peng.html. Apparently, Dr. Peng came in second in the 1996 race, with 21% of the vote.
It must be remembered that Mao was the bloodiest tyrant ever, who was responsible for the slaughter of 60 to 100 million people according to actual reports. Chiang Kai-shek was elected leader of Free China and retreated to Taiwan to escape Mao’s communist forces in China in 1947, when Communist sympathizers in the U.S. government supported the ruthless Mao and undermined the Free China movement.
Regarding FORMOSA BETRAYED, strong caution is warranted for the revisionist history, depicted violence, some strong foul language, and the movie’s few Anti-American elements.