QUEZON’S GAME review by Patrick Hendrickson – a dramatic account of The Philippines in WWII

QUEZON’S GAME review by Patrick Hendrickson – a dramatic account of The Philippines in WWII

QUEZON’S GAME tells the story of Filipino president Manuel Quezon’s attempt to save several thousand Jewish people from death at the hands of the Nazis. The production begins with an older and ailing Quezon asking a simple question to his wife: “Could I have done more?” before things rewind to several years before at the height of Quezon’s presidency. What follows is the portrayal of tireless efforts on the part of Quezon and several confidants, including future US president Dwight Eisenhower.

Raymond Bagatsing stars in the titular role as Manuel Quezon, president of the Philippines, who is made aware of the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jewish population. Quezon then makes it his mission to rescue as many people as possible, despite being stymied by immigration laws enforced on his country by the United States. This creates tension with his political allies who want his focus to be on strengthening their own country. There are a frustrating amount of political obstacles to Quezon’s plan and he only gets past these obstacles once galvanizing the beloved people of his nation. Once this is accomplished, it is only a matter of time before the right thing is done and he is allowed by the United States to provide safety to some of the refugees.

Tragically, Quezon’s life came to an end shortly before the end of WWII and did not live to see his dream of an independent Philippines. However, he and his compatriots did manage to save upwards of 1000 people from Nazi death camps. The film ends by showing the arrival of the first few refugees at Quezon’s opulent home, where they are welcomed with open arms by the Quezon family. Bookending the film is a repetition of that original question followed by a brief overview of what became of the notable people portrayed in this film.

The cast is rounded out by Quezon’s inner circle and family. His wife Aurora (Rachel Alejandro) and daugher Baby (Kate Alejandrino) both support his decision whilst also fearing the toll it takes on Manuel. Aiding Quezon’s efforts are Dwight Eisenhower (David Bianco) who needs no introduction, Paul McNutt (James Paoleli) the US Ambassador to the Philippines, and Alex Frieder (Billy Ray Gallion) a Jewish activist with connections across Europe. Each of the actors and actresses do a great job of supplementing Bagatsing’s starring role. The only two performances that are lacking would be over-the-top SS Officer Enbarr and an equally overacted government figure from the United States named Cartwright. These two are thankfully not present for most of the film but they serve as major distractions whenever they are on screen.

The political maneuvering of Quezon and his friends is an engaging web to be caught in, but there are a lot of moments that feel unnecessary. The runtime of the film is just over two hours and it feels like things could have been tightened up to reduce that. A few particular scenes lead to nothing such as when Eisenhower makes an appeal to General Macarthur, who rebukes him instantly. The result is both Eisenhower and the audience’s time being wasted.
One noteworthy moment comes early in a scene set under the tyrannical Nazi regime in Europe. A refugee manages to barely get a message out through telegram to Alex just before getting escorted home to by Nazi guards. The color of the scene is completely dulled over and washed out before the scene shifts to the vibrantly colorful Philippines. This dichotomy of color is striking but sadly underused as there are no other scenes set in Europe, just brief flashes of events going on.

This is a tale of sacrifice and of desperation to do good which results in quite a few emotionally poignant moments. The major cast members do a wonderful job of bringing their real-life counterparts to life and it is only the excess characters that bring things down. Some of the more cartoonish portrayals are annoying but one can hardly complain about Nazis and racists being misrepresented. QUEZON’S GAME gets a 4/5

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