Daulat (2020) Review

It’s not every day we get to see a locally-made political thriller, particularly the one that hits too close to home. Which explained the reason Daulat made a smart move not to release it in the cinemas, especially given our snip-happy local censorship board and the ever-taboo issue of the aforementioned genre. Instead, the movie made its debut on iflix streaming service without cuts — a result that would have been unthinkable if the production company (Lacuna Pictures) insists on releasing it in the cinemas.

Co-written by Haziq Jamaludin and Imran Sheik, the movie begins with the aftermath of the political party MUNA’s loss during the recent general election. The disappointing result led MUNA president Hassan Bana (Tony Eusoff) to appoint Suri (Vanidah Imran) as the party’s deputy, where she devises an elaborate plan to ensure their win in the next general election.

As fictional as the disclaimer seen during the very first minute of the movie, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Imran Sheik — making his feature-length directorial debut — heavily inspired his screenplay from our country’s 2018 general election as well as the recent political turmoil involving the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government and the rise of Perikatan Nasional.

Clocking at 101 minutes, such a political thriller like Daulat could have benefitted more with an epic scale. But given the movie’s budgetary cost at a reportedly RM500,000, it’s perfectly understandable why Daulat has the restrictive look and feel of a chamber drama that focuses on the inner workings of a scheming political party.

Although the movie tends to suffer from several on-the-nose dialogues and the awkwardly-misplaced comic relief involving one of the side characters, Imran Sheik manages to offset most of the shortcomings with a reasonably solid script that combines intriguing themes of power struggle and political manipulation. It also helps that Daulat gets an exceptional visual boost from Nurhanisham Muhammad’s suitably atmospheric cinematography, which complements the overall sneaky tone of the movie.

Cast-wise, Vanidah Imran made the most lasting impression in her scene-stealing manipulative role as Suri. The rest including the likes of Tony Eusoff and Jasmine Suraya, who plays the news reporter all deliver decent supports in their respective roles. The only exception here is screen veteran Jalaluddin Hassan, who doesn’t get to do much other than showing up in a few obligatory scenes as the newly-elected prime minister Tun Malik. It would have been nice if the director spends extra time on Hassan rather than just relegating him to a background character.

Daulat is currently showing on iflix. You can watch it for free right here.