Infernal Affairs (2002)

Release Date: 12 December 2002

Directed by: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak

Country: Hong Kong

Infernal Affairs focuses on a police officer named Chen Wing-Yan who is sent to infiltrate the triads and gradually finds his loyalties eroding under pressure of the lie he is forced to live, and Lau Kin-Ming who joins the police as a spy for the triads, rising in the ranks, gradually acquiring the culture and values of the Hong Kong police force. Each mole has been planted by the rival organisation to gain advantage in intelligence over the other side. The story complicates as both organisation discover that there is a mole amongst them which sparks the start of a cat and mouse game.

The movie title itself is a pun, English term “internal affairs” refers to a division that investigates misconduct and criminal behaviour involving police officers and “inferno” references to hell. The film begins and ends with two Buddhist verses which speak of a “continuous hell” and the actual Chinese movie title is translated “The Unceasing Path”. In the movie, we see that Yan and Lau are trapped in their own unending personal hells with no way of escaping. Both of them are sick of the life they’ve been leading, Yan wants to leave the undercover cop life, sick of leading the criminal life. He starts to lose himself even once questioning the therapist, “Do you think I’m a good cop or bad cop?”. Meanwhile, Lau gets more comfortable with his life in the police force, tired of playing the double life. Towards the second half of the movie he begins scheming on how to eradicate all who knows of his secret, attempting to escape his “personal hell”, he kills Sam thinking that everything is over but alas, Yan has discovered who he is.

The misc en scène is set in contemporary Hong Kong, five years after reunification with China. The film successfully captures the local modernity of Hong Kong, traversed by trans-Asian culture yet highly urbanised. In a way, Lau and Yan were fluid identities, representing the technologized environment of contemporary Hong Kong. On the other hand, Sam and Wong were the most stable characters, one clearly a cop, the other clearly a crook, representatives of an older order. Another thing I’ve noted is that Sam and Wong’s death were marked by technological sounds: the ting of an elevator and the ring of a cell phone provide death knells for Wong and Sam respectively.

This movie was nothing short of amazing, the cinematography beautiful. The ending was shocking, I really didn’t expect Yan to die just like that. The things that Lau did to keep his life in the police force was extreme, at the start I thought it was because he wanted to be a good cop through and through but towards the end, I felt it was more of self-preservation.




One Comment Add yours

  1. jonlwch says:

    “I felt it was more of self-preservation.”
    Agreed on this point, although the film discusses morality quite a bit and the characters struggle with playing both sides, I felt that Andy Lau’s character just found himself in a position where he did not need Hon Sam anymore and instead wanted to get rid of him to prevent his identity from being compromised. It was quite possible that Lau had in fact turned over a new leaf and wanted out of the triads but that was more because he found himself contented with the life he lead as a police officer and that he had really become what he was only pretending to be over all those years.

    Liked by 1 person

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