Story: 10 months after the death of Yan (Tony Leung) the investigation of the case has been resolved. Ming
(Andy Lau) uncovered a double agent and Yan, who has been Ming's contact, was killed on duty. Although Ming's
reputation has been restored he is still haunted be the truth of the events. Moreover, his wife Mary wants a divorce.
That's just the time when SP Yeung (Leon Lai) returns from his temporal suspension, after he had to endure an investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau concerning certain actions. When suddenly a collegue, Leung, dies, there is rumors about another mole in the police force who wants to get rid of every remaining mole after their boss Sam (Eric Tsang) was shot, in order for the mole to be able to preserve his wrong identity. Ming assumes that Yeung is that person and henceforth spies on him like a man possessed.
Ming uncovers that Yeung had some relationship with the arms dealer Shen (Chen Dao Ming) and Sam. The whole case seems to be linked to events that took place 7 months before Yan's death. However, while Ming tries to reveal Yeung's true intentions, he is constantly haunted by his past. It seems that he is going more mad the more he unravels the secrets of Yeung and coping with his own past becomes rather difficult. Dr. Lee (Kelly Chen), who is approached by Ming in order to help him solve the already closed case of Yan again, also does only get aware of Ming's mental condition when it's already too late...
Review: Probably the best Hong Kong trilogy is brought to a conclusion with "Infernal Affairs III". Directors
Andrew Lau and Alan Mak fortunately accomplish to keep up with the high quality level of the prequels, which makes the
trilogy, in contrast to many other movie series, a one without even a single misstep. Which is the more astonishing
considering that the production has been finished in quite a short span of time and also because of the star-studded
overall picture. One easily could have gotten the impression that the filmmakers just wanted to get a little bit more
money out of their successful masterpiece, but script-writers Alan Mak and Felix Chong again did come up with some
amazing stuff to make this film an unforgettable movie experience.
While part 2 of the movie series had its focus on shedding some light on the past of the main protagonists and to imbue the world with even more in-depth, in order to successfully brigde to the first installment, "Infernal Affairs III" fills all remaining gaps, answers some important questions and blends past and present into a grandious mix, that has its climax in a wonderful finale, which really doesn't leave us unsatisfied.
The third installment mainly focuses on Ming, who is jointly responsible for Yan's death. Nothing seems to work out for him anymore. His wife breaks up their relationship and he gets to know that there is still one of Sam's former moles in the police force who wants to get rid of him in order to maintain his identity. Ming's investigation slowly sucks him into madness. He somewhat cuts himself off of the outside world and his past starts to get to him real quick and ugly. It's like a whirl that gradually sucks him into madness. Ming's inner life surely is in the movie's spotlight and the way he slowly starts to lose his mind is convincingly and with great care put into picture. That's even the more ironical and bitter considering that he just wanted to become one of the good guys, but his (eligible) guilty conscience makes his life a living hell.
Sadly, Andy Lau doesn't get all the screen-time he deserves. This is because lots of old faces get a revival - in the roles they had in the previous installments, natch. First, there is Tony Leung, of course, who manages to give his character even more depth in the various flashbacks, so that Yan's death becomes almost unbearable.
The film plays on two different time levels, of which every one seems to have its own story to tell, but the viewer already knows that there has to be some sort of connection. Until the finale, however, you won't make out any of it. Yet, when the finale hits the screen, the two story threads are linked together in a very grand manner. Nonetheless, unfortunately, the existence of two main plots at the same time deprives the movie of its dynamic at times. It takes the first half of the movie until we are finally pressed into the seat out of inner tension - just as we have get used to by the prequels.
Apart from Tony Leung and Andy Lau, Kelly Chen, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Sammi Cheng, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Carina Lau and Anthony Wong also make their appearance again, even if some of their performances are more of a small cameo. Still, this prestigious list of stars wasn't enough, because one even did get Leon Lai as inscrutable Inspektor Yeung and Chen Dao Ming as a weapons dealer to join the cast. So it's surely no surprise that the acting is over the top.
To go more into details about the excellent performances of the actors is almost a waste of space. Andy Lau very believable dives into the madness of his own soul, while Tony Leung finally gets the little love story intermezzo which was somewhat hinted at in the first installment already. Especially their shared scenes in the doctor's office are surprisingly funny and luckily also don't feel out of place, but instead fit into the rest of the film's atmosphere very well.
Leon Lai ("Heroic Duo") plays the seemingly emotionless Inspektor Yeung with such an intensity, that one just has to suspect some sort of conspiracy behind his expressionless face. Chen Dao Ming ("Hero") imbues the film with even more depth, playing a weapons dealer, who works with Sam and Yeung. Until the very end his character, too, remains very enigmatic.
At the end, naturally, nothing is as it seemed, but until then you are captured by the high tension and thrill. Storywise, we get the same sort of cleverness that we loved in the first two parts. Numerous revelations and twists are nothing unusual here. Even technically the film-makers prove to have quite some finesse leftovers. Despite all the circumstances which apparently made it impossible for Leung and Lau actually to be seen together on screen in the same frame again, the filmmakers achieved to pull off exactly that. At one point this is only in Ming's head, and another time in the office of Dr. Lee where in a metaphorical way past and present are blent together, allowing Leung/Yan to sit next to each other on the same couch.
Of course, the look is also very gritty and thrilling as always, even though there is a stronger focus on the claustrophobic atmosphere this time. The typical widescreen Freeze-ins are also part of the film again. Sadly, some of these scenes can't hide the fact that it all feels a bit artificial. For instance, there is one scene in which almost all of the cast have gathered together at the police station. The reason? Well, because it looks cool...
"Infernal Affairs III" is the kind of sequel the fans are asking for. While part 2 didn't meet the expectations of those who wanted a direct sequel, first off, because it actually was a prequel and the two main actors weren't involved, the third installment continues right where the first part ended. Ming's last sentence in the first part is exactly the point where part 3 storywise mainly links to in a very twisted, but great way.
Unfortunately, the finale feels a bit like a neverending epilogue, which didn't know where to find an end. However, this is mainly so in the "Directors's Cut" version of the film, which nevertheless is absolutely superior to the normal edition. Apart from that sore point, the movie almost reaches the ingeniousness of the first part and this even though we already had known what to expect. The movie delivers a big deal of thrill, tension and has a great story to hold everything together, which makes the third part, too, a movie experience.
"Infernal Affairs III" closes the circle and marks the end of a trilogy with a finale, that resembles an emotional house of cards collapsing. That's the reason why you can easily forgive some of the small missteps, as for example the slow opening. This is (emotional) cinema at its best with a great cast and a perfect wrapping. Absolutely recommendable!