Tag Sion Sono
Published Oct 23, 2015Tag is one of those films where, even half an hour in, you have no idea where any of it is going. You like what you're seeing, but it could become any number of things — it's a Sion Sono film, after all. Luckily, what Tag becomes is a clever exploration of fetishized female archetypes bundled as, essentially, a Japanese Run Lola Run — with way more evisceration.
It would be a shame to go into Tag with too much information, but briefly: Shy, sweet schoolgirl Mitsuko (Austrian-Japanese actress/model Reina Triendl, whose wonderfully expressive face elevates Mitsuko to an excellent Final Girl) survives a horrific accident on the way to summer camp, when a killer breeze slices the entire school bus and its inhabitants in half. It's a hell of a way to start a movie, and from there on in, it never stops. No matter where she runs, poor Mitsuko falls further down a rabbit hole of death and destruction in alternate realities populated entirely by female archetypes — brides and schoolgirls abound — who meet their ends in violently imaginative ways. The only way to deal with it is summed up by the advice of her friend: "Life is surreal. Don't let it get to you. Don't let it consume you."
Tag takes a long time to actually get to the point, but that's part of the fun. When everything is finally revealed, it's a gut-punching twist that is just a bit disappointing, as it feels rushed and too neat compared to the surrealism of the rest of the film. Still, Sono rewards us for our patience by disguising a surprisingly subtle critique of the male gaze within a splatter flick.
There are nearly no men in Tag — when they do appear, it's jarring, as if we've been wrenched out of a world we were just beginning to get familiar with — but despite their near absence, there's a sense of objectification in every scene. There are constant upskirt shots, women with guns in catsuits and women stripping down to bikinis, apropos of nothing). There's a method to this madness — unfortunately, one that can't be analyzed without giving away significant spoilers — so interpreting it as simple grindhouse-style exploitation feels like a mistake. Tag is peppered with the kinds of details that make sense by the film's end, making it a rewarding rewatch. You'll just have to take the film in yourself to see why.