Muru – Toronto 2022

Cliff Curtis in Muru. Courtesy of TIFF.

Muru is a very tense thriller as a community police officer must decide between doing his job and protecting his community.

This film is inspired by true events but it’s not a recreation. Per the start of the film, it’s actually a response to the raid. And honestly, looking at the conversation about policing in the past few years, it makes one rethink their feelings. I mean, honestly, is a person a terrorist when they only want to protect their community’s identity? I’d like to think not. You also get into a case here where government antiterrorist agents go against orders and go rogue. Events like this certainly have an impact on one’s feelings and there’s no going back.

Police Sergeant ‘Taffy’ Tāwharau (Cliff Curtis) is in the unique position of choosing between his job or his Urewera community. What makes this extremely difficult is that the government just decided to launch an anti-terrorist raid on the community. On a school day no less! It doesn’t help Taffy that his father is close with Tame Iti (Himself), who runs Camp Rama in the Ruatoki valley. What these camps do are focus on survival skills and preserving their Tūhoe identity. While Taffy has never attended these camps, he has zero knowledge of the camps being under police surveillance either. Everything changes when Taffy catches Rusty (Poroaki Merritt-McDonald) in a domestic disturbance. Next thing you know is that a Defense MP, Captain Gallagher (Jay Ryan) and his STG unit take matters into their own hands!

Is Rusty a terrorist or just a troubled adolescent? Even with government orders, Gallagher has his doubts about the nature of their target. Taffy takes matters into his own hands when Rusty is involved with a situation and takes him to Camp Rama. All the while, the police are also surveilling the area and all hell is about to break loose. When Taffy notices this, he approaches and tries to see about a safe way of going about things. Trust is a two-way street and you just know that this is not going to end well.

In the Māori tradition, Muru is a concept of forgiveness. Is this the filmmakers way of forgiving the people who raided? I’m not exactly sure. What I can say, again, is that this is a very tense thriller. Take Gallagher, for instance. He’s just doing his job but he has his doubts about Tame being the actual enemy. Unfortunately for him, one of his colleagues, Kimiora (Manu Bennett) goes rogue and just makes everything worse. Once this happens, you cannot undo the damage. All you can do is try to keep it under control and keep it from getting any more out of hand than it already is.

How did things reach this point? Look no further than the following:

  • The police arrest of Rua Kēnana in 1916 for opposing the enlistment of Tūhoe men.
  • Senior Constable Keith Abbott fatally shooting Steven Wallace four times on April 30, 2000.
  • The arrest of Tame Iti, who plays himself in the film, in 2007.

Muru puts a new perspective on the meaning of “to serve and protect.”

CAST: Cliff Curtis, Jay Ryan, Manu Bennett, Simone Kessell, Ria Te Uira Paki, Roimata Fox, Poroaki Merritt-McDonald, and Tame Iti

Muru holds its international premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema program. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.