Friday, 8 June 2012

filmbore's pick of the week - Cell 211

Cell 211 (Original title “Celda 211”)

Director: Daniel Monzón
Screenplay: Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Daniel Monzón
Starring: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann
Year: 2009
Language Spanish, Basque
UK rental release: January 2012


Adapted from Francisco Pérez Gandul’s novel of the same name, Cell 211 is a classic “wrong-place-at-wrong-time” story but with a dark backbone. Our protagonist is the only man who knows this, and nearly everyone else thinks he’s in about the best place as he could be for them…

Alberto Ammann stars as Juan; a “newbie” warden who, in order to impress his new boss and peers, arrives at his new place of work (a nearby penitentiary) a day early. As a visitor, he wants to get a feel for the place…and boy does he! Due to an obscure twist of fate he is left inside the prison as the inmates break free and riot. Does he tell them who he is, or does he play along?

Luis Tosar is electric as prison gang leader Malamadre, a character who appears to breathe rebellion as he’s on screen. However, as he unfolds throughout the film small flecks pride and honour are brought to the surface. You get the distinct impression that it is the prison culture (as oppressed as he believes he is by it) that truly defines the man he has become and not just his previous convictions that put him there.

Moving beyond the main characters, what’s really apparent about this film is its immense sense of pace. Even in the quieter “talky” scenes, there is a constant underlying vein of panic in everyone’s voice, keeping the tension alive throughout. In fact, these moments are perfectly balanced against the aggressive, violent action scenes, brutally thrown up on screen without any regard for sensitivity.

The only real reprieve from this persistent wave of drama is during the few, brief delicate scenes between Juan and his pregnant wife Elena (Marta Etura) but these moments only help to infuse the drive of our main character as he has feuds with his internal morals and sense of justice.

Winner of 8 Goya Awards, Cell 211 is the type of film that reminds me why I love world cinema. Here is a well thought out, beautifully written piece of drama, perfectly encapsulated through the medium of film. What Daniel Monzón has so consummately crafted here is a deep, gritty prison movie which brings to question the state of the justice system but at the same time pitches itself as an approachable movie for a wider commercial audience.

In my opinion…its Spanish drama at it’s best!

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it is a quality drama. A Spanish friend recommended this one for me and i am really glad i gave it a go. Luis Tosar seems to be getting about alot since the release of this, he is everywhere!