This slow-burning psychological drama set in a Singaporean prison is told from the point of view of a young correctional officer who becomes morbidly fascinated with the region's top executioner.
Contemporary World Cinema
A slow-burning drama almost entirely set inside a Singaporean prison, Apprentice addresses the issue of the death penalty from the unusual point of view of an executioner.
Driven young correctional officer Aiman (Fir Rahman) is ready to do everything it takes to be transferred to the death ward of Singapore's highest-security prison. His ambition to become apprentice to chief executioner Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su) is not only professional; it's born of Aiman's unspeakable desire to reconnect with a past that haunts him. Rahim is pleased to have finally found a suitable heir to a trade no one seemed to want to learn, and Aiman finds in the aging executioner the father he has never met, but his morbid fascination with Rahim and his special job is tainted with disturbing and sinister nuances.
Young Singaporean director Boo Junfeng has already shown himself to be an adept chronicler of family dynamics, as they formed the narrative core of his acclaimed first feature Sandcastle, and here he approaches the same theme with the same level of insight. But Apprentice is also an unsettling look at the ritualized, dehumanized mechanical gestures that constitute an executioner's work. Far from being a conventional prison movie, it presents the protocol of capital punishment with the look and pace of a documentary, which brings the film to nearly unbearable heights of tension. The bright and talented Boo is a rising star in the firmament of Southeast Asian Cinema.