Dept. of Politicking and Plotting


When director Imran Sheik set out to make a fictional movie about a long serving Malaysian political party, plotting to reclaim power after losing an election amid rumours of corruption, little could he have known how much the political landscape would change by the time Daulat would be released. Who could have predicted the events of February/March 2020 and and the dawn of the Perikatan Nasional era of politics? Certainly not the Pakatan Harapan government, that’s for sure.

While it’s a very different political set up now, Daulat, currently available on Mubi, imagines how such a scenario could have played out in the lead up to a fictional “GE15”.

Full Disclosure

I know actor Tony Eusoff personally, so in this review I will refrain from commenting on his contributions except to say that in my estimation he can be a little…

Tony Eusoff Cocky

After a disastrous election loss, Hassan (Tony Eusoff), the leader of the Malay party MUNA (DEFINITELY NOT UMNO!) meets with his strategist Suri (Vanida Imran), who lays out a plan to reclaim power in the next general election. Again this film has nothing to do with current politics, as the filmmakers go to great pains to point out.

Suuuuure it is.

From here Suri’s plan unfold bit by bit, as various pawns and seemingly unrelated players are dragged into its orbit. Her ultimate targets are Malik (Jalaluddin Hassan), the elder statesman of the new “Wawasan” government and his deputy Anwar – sorry I mean Ali (Zul Zamir) – who’s been promised the Prime Minister’s position in return for his support.

For the most part the plot focuses on smaller fries, like media company owner Idrus (Rashidi Ishak), who has links to Suri and the old government, trying to keep his business afloat with his business partner Nadiya (Cristina Suzanne) as they face harsh realities under the new government. One of Idrus’s employees, reporter Jasmin (Jasmine Suraya Chin) is also swept up in events, even as she believes it’s all part of her own cunning plan.

Will Suri’s plan come to fruition for Hassan and MUNA or will the tensions between the various power blocs in the party tear it apart? Will developments in the boardroom or the bedroom override everyone’s plans? Who will be the real winners in the end and who’s greater design is everyone actually working within?

“Let Your Plan Be Dark as Night but When You Move, Fall Like a Thunder”

Director Imran Sheik should be congratulated for putting out a slick looking, well put together movie for his first film. For the most part I was on board with the political thriller. Up to a point.

Putting a female character at the heart of this political drama is a bold step, as is calling out the sexist and racist tones in certain aspects of Malaysian politics (while not pointing fingers). I found the main performances to be pretty solid for the most part, and Vanida Imran comfortably carries the movie as Suri. Of course Tony Eusoff is conniving, duplicitous, and corrupt. Oh, and so is his character 😉

I started to get worried however as the tone stated to wobble, during a bedroom confrontation. Is this a horror movie or a political thriller? This was probably down to the music in the scene, (which is generally excellent throughout) but then, after a while, some of this scene doesn’t quite make sense in light of later revelations.

It’s an issue that comes up a few more times as seemingly unpredictable events are later revealed to all be part of “The Plan”, even if it makes no sense in hindsight.

Look, I am in no way smarter than this film. I had to look up the Sun Tzu quote and it had to be pointed out to me that it was a portrait of Machiavelli that Suri meditates in front of at one point. I didn’t mind the lecture on the “median liberal” voter and, to be fair, I’m guessing similar lectures had to be delivered to many ousted politicians after the last election, but I can see how this may come off as preachy for some people.

It was only in the final lead up to the climax, where the wheels came off for me.

Divide and Conquer

As events come to a head, the mostly realistic tone gave way to outright melodrama, as proceedings didn’t just jump the shark, but back-flipped over it with a double twist while firing off a handgun. In order to get all the pieces to fall into their required final positions, an apparently smart operator needs to make a violent, dunderheaded move that feels out of step with the rest of the film. I gasped in a mixture of shock, horror, and amusement.

As the rest of the pawns fall into place for the grand operator, it starts to feel as if it’s because the end of the movie is rapidly approaching, rather than due to any master manipulation. A knowing look to camera as the credits roll and a mid credits speech, also to camera, muddle things further. After watching the movie, this lecture at the end comes off like a TED talk in reverse: “Effectiveness is the key to government, in this TED talk I have…”

Daulat has been released at an interesting time in Malaysian film. Previously many filmmakers would set their political thriller or crime dramas in fictional countries to avoid mandatory “input” from the authorities. Presumably the filmmakers thought they might have an easier time releasing a film with such close parallels to known political figures, with a Pakatan Harapan government in power. It’s unknown if this caused any issue with the Malaysian censorship board as, according to the director, the LPF requested “to compromise on the story, and that is something I am not willing to do at this stage. I would rather show the whole story.”

With cinemas closed for the time being due to COVID-19 who knows how such films will be handled in future. We’re lucky to get to see the movie unaltered, but we are nonetheless deprived of seeing how it would have fared in cinemas.

While Daulat may not be the most gripping political thriller, it is, hopefully, a bold step towards a future where movies can be made about the political situation here, without outside meddling.

101 minutes
Director: Imran Sheik
Writer: Imran Sheik and Haziq Jamaludin
Cast: Vanidah Imran, Rashidi Ishak , Tony Eusoff , Jasmine Suraya ,Cristina Suzzane, and Zul Zamir

Daulat is now streaming on Mubi.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

The Daulat Title Screen
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