Infernal Affairs is a crime film produced by Nansu Shi and John Chong. Yan (Tony Leung), an undercover police officer, tired of his current life and desires to go back to his former life. He finds it difficult to call himself a police officer as most of his undercover lifestyle has already changed him to a gangster. Yan works as a spy for the police force, to the knowledge of his boss only, in the Triad Society since graduating from the police academy.
He does his best to fix this problem, something that eventually drives him to meet Ming (Andy Lau). Being in the police force for many years, Ming transforms into a law-abiding citizen, even though he is a mole in the force, trading information for Sam, the major antagonist of the movie.
Their discovery of each other sparks suspense in the movie as each one of them tries to hunt down the other. The two meet at the beginning of the movie not knowing each other, a contrast to their confrontation at the end of the movie. Infernal Affairs explores secrecy, conspiracy and betrayal in both police force and the underworld.
Infernal affairs is a Basic Pictures action-packed thriller released in 2002. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak are the directors of this film. As the scenes opens, Sam (Eric Tsang), the leader of the Triad Society, trains and releases a group of young men to join the police force as spies. Out of all his trainees, Ming is the most successful and lives up to his obligation as Sam’s informant. He successfully rises up the ranks and wins the respect of many in the police force.
Yan, on the other hand, shows potency as a young recruit in the police force only to be expelled in his early years in the force. This happens only as a cover-up for him to work as Wong’s informant in the Triad Society. Wong (Anthony Wong), the police superintendent, and Yip, the police-training academy principal, remain to be the masterminds behind Yan’s undercover job and they are the only people he reports to. Yip later dies and Wang becomes the only person aware of Yan’s undercover job.
All seems to go well until an incident happens that raises suspicion of moles on either side. The police led by Wang, cuts short a meeting between Sam and a Thai drug dealer. Sam is however well informed of the interruption and his men cover-up any kind of evidence of the drug deal. Both Sam and Wang come to a common conclusion; there are spies working among them.
Ming follows up a secret meeting between Yan and Wang, and sends Sam’s gangsters to confront them. Inspector B (Gordon Lam), Ming’s subordinate, also follows up the meeting and sends a Hong Kong Police squad to his rescue, but Wang dies in the confrontation. Yan escapes unhurt but Ming tracks him through Wang’s cell phone. They arrange a meeting and agree to set Sam up through a drug deal. Their plan is successful leading to Sam’s death and the arrest of most of his gang members.
Yan goes back to the police department, a fulfillment of his desires, while Ming assumes a normal life. For Ming, this is a great achievement but another problem arises; Yan discovers he was a mole working for Sam in the police department (Infernal Affairs). His desire is to erase any evidence that he worked for Sam, and all other illegal activities connected to him from the pastor. He wants to be clean. Yan’s discovery comes in as an obstacle to achieve his goals hence, plans to eliminate him.
They both agree to meet on the same building Wang was killed. They finally meet, and after Yan disarm Ming and hold a gun on his head; Inspector B comes to his rescue by unexpectedly shoots and kills Yan. He then informs Ming that he is also Sam’s spy. It becomes clear to Ming that Yan is not the only person aware of his state; he therefore kills Inspector B to clean all traces of evidence about his past life.
Yan has sleeping problems forcing him to seek the help of a psychotherapist named Lee (Kelly Chen), whom he founds to be very beautiful and attractive. They seem to get along well but Yan takes time before making any commitments. Ming has a taste of lifestyle as he lives in a magnificent apartment with his girlfriend, Mary (Sammi Cheng).
She is writing a novel whose main character fits the descriptions of Ming. He is very charming and confident though arrogant at some time. He remains faithful to his boss, Sam, something he comes to regret later and commits the greatest betrayals of his life. He selfishly sells his boss to pursue his objective of erasing any previous criminal records.
Yan and Ming have a hunger to live a good life, the former wanting to leave his current lifestyle, while the latter wishing he could be who he was pretending to be. Infernal Affair is a classic example of an undercover life can be. The two main action leaders are in a trap, a lifestyle that is not their own, to such an extent that it changes their personal characters.
The cinematography, directed by Andrew Lau is excellent, displaying the magnificence of Hong Kong architecture. Some scenes are shot on the rooftops, like the one where Wong is killed, giving beautiful sceneries that almost grasp the viewers attention from following the story. One is left to judge and differentiates between the good and the bad character. Yan is a nice person one hand, but his profession leads him into a ditch he cannot get himself out of.
He is working for the good of the society through the police force, but the way he does it questions his responsibilities as a police officer. Ming initially works for a Triad society, but the standards of his current job condemn him of his criminal record. The story is properly scripted, with the actors perfectly fitting their roles to produce this suspense-gripping thriller.
Infernal Affairs’ success in the Hong Kong film industry was not expected, but it is now one of the best selling movies not just in Hong Kong, but also in Hollywood for the last decade.
It is certain that it “does a wonderful job at building tension for the scenes of cat-and-mouse where Yan and Lau try to carry out their official duties while at the same time trying to keep their unofficial bosses apprised of what’s going on” (Desmond 1). As the story unfolds, events occur contrary to the viewer’s expectations, having some big surprises in between scenes. It is until the last scene that the viewer connects all the pieces from the different scenes to get a comprehensive picture.
It is not the kind of movie to watch while doing other things for it requires a lot of attention to get the flow of the story. Martin Scorsese’s fascination with the movie led to his redoing of the same as The Departed, where the flow is almost the same but he uses a different approach. Many critics may have made negative comments on Infernal Affairs, but whether they were genuine or not, it is certainly a film worth watching.
Desmond, Norman. Review: Infernal Affairs, 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. http://flickchickcanada.blogspot.com/2010/11/review-infernal-affairs-2002.html
Infernal Affairs. Dir. Lau, Wai-keung & Mak, Alan. Basic Pictures, 2002. Film.