still from tag

Review: Tag

Director(s)Sion Sono
Principal CastReina Triendl as Mitsuko
Yuki Sakurai as Aki
Release Date2015
Running Time 85 minutes

One day while randomly browsing YouTube, I found an raw trailer for this movie and was left in shock. It looked cutesy but then devolved into seemingly disparate situations of violence. I knew that I had to see what it was all about, so I waited till it came out with subs and proceeded to experience an audiovisual piece the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The story picks up on Mitsuko, a shy high-schooler who’s busy writing poetry as she and her classmates head off on a trip. However, soon after this start, a gust of wind comes through and kills everyone on the bus besides Mitsuko. Streams of blood and guts envelop the screen and Mitsuko is forced to run away from the wind to survive.

What follows is a story that never lets up with WTF moments and sequences. Every time I thought I had a grasp on what the movie was, it went in a completely different direction, each as violent as the one preceding it. If you’re someone who likes having answers immediately, then this movie is going to get under your skin. Answers only come near the end of the third act and they’re still ambiguous at that. It’s a movie that assaults the senses with gore and absurdity while dragging the audience at breakneck speeds through a story that seemingly makes no sense. However, once things start clicking, the movie becomes something else entirely. I was floored with everything I had seen. The movie takes a lot of risks and I thought they more than payed off by the end.

Without getting into spoilers, I can say the movie’s analysis of agency is interesting and provocative. Just like Mitsuko, the audience never has a stable foundation to begin to determine what is and isn’t real. That’s because those perceptions are conditioned not only by our perspectives of ourselves but by the perspectives of those who control the levers of society. If we’re taught that certain protocol is the only way forward, then it becomes easy to see how true freedom can become hidden away. Sono takes this idea and then wonderfully infuses both a queer and feminist subtext into it, giving the idea a sense of nuance that most movies can only dream of. Multiple people can watch this movie and all of them can come away with different interpretations (outside of the blatant message of the movie). Even now the ending gets to me and makes me really think both of the meaning of the story and the way I contribute to a society that strips people of agency.

Now for my more squeamish readers, you might want to watch this one with a friend who can let you know when the gory stuff is over. The movie is filled with splatters and grotesque murders. The first time I watched it, I had to look away a few times because of how visceral the experience would get. I think it gives the movie a really distinctive feel, but I can see how it could turn people away.

Report Card

TLDRTag is a movie that deserves to get seen by more people. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and has one of the most unique plots I’ve seen in a story. The way the mystery builds and resolves itself is shocking and thought provoking. If you like gore or art-house movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this.
Grade A+

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