The trailer for Rudy Habibie may have been presented as a light-hearted drama with a groovy soundtrack depicting former Indonesian president Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie as a carefree youth enjoying his time as an engineering student in Germany.
In that segment, it looked like he had time for dancing, friendship and romance.
However, the audience will be in for a surprise when the feature opens with a tragic flashback: Rudy (the nickname for Habibie) and his family are trying to survive the aftermath of a bombing at his village in Indonesia.
The film depicts how as a child, Rudy is terrified of the sound of airplanes. But later, he realises that airplanes can benefit Indonesians if turned into a mode of transport for the people. So when Rudy grows up, he decides to turn his fear into motivation to spearhead the development of Indonesia’s aviation industry.
Inspired by a true story, Rudy Habibie focuses on Rudy’s tenacity to gain his fellow Indonesian students’ confidence. He leads the formation of a national student group (PPI) and then encourages the members to support his proposal for nation-building. Unfortunately, some students laugh off his ideas and instead ask him to use the group as a club for fun, social gatherings.
Rudy faces more challenges, in the form of political backlash when he refuses to let the PPI be used for the government’s military agendas. He puts his friendship, national identity and physical being (he gets beaten up by a gang of military students for standing up to them) on the line. On top of that, he also struggles as a cash-strapped student with severe hunger pangs.
Rudy Habibie is an engrossing movie thanks to some brilliant performances and beautiful cinematography. Reza Rahadian, in particular, shines as Rudy, nailing the figure’s various personality quirks and even down to the way he walks.
Then again, it should come as no surprise as Reza has portrayed the same character in Habibie Ainun (Rudy Habibie is the prequel) and won awards for his performance.
There’s also a number of brilliant scenes where Rudy engages in conversations about religion, social standing and civic responsibility which adds a whole lot of depth to the glossy-looking movie.
In the mix, too, we have a love story between Rudy and Illona (an Indonesian-speaking Polish student played by Chelsea Islan).
The romance is marketed as a crucial subplot in the trailer, but it soon becomes obvious that Illona cannot compete with Rudy’s devotion to his nation.
Heck, she only appears after the 30 minute-mark.
Rudy has a method where he analyses situations by stating the facts, problems and then coming up with a solution. Illona acknowledges that she is a problem and her solution is to leave him.
This is a darn shame because she’s his only ally especially when everyone else is looking at his faults. The impending break-up is not a spoiler as we know Rudy eventually ends up with Hasri Ainun, but Rudy Habibie still manages to make viewers feel emotional.
The only thing that annoyed me about Rudy Habibie is the same flashback is used over and over again for dramatic effect.
Overall, Rudy Habibie has all the ingredients for a memorable movie. If anything, it makes you want to ask yourself what it means to be a good human being. Are you defined by the colour of your passport?
When the time comes, could you forgo a carefree life for the sake of others? Just like Rudy, you have to acknowledge the facts, identify a problem and come up with your own solution.