Friday, 10 August 2012

filmbore pick of the week - Intacto

Intacto Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Screenplay: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Andrés M. Koppel
Starring: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Max Von Sidow, Mónica López
Year: 2001
Languages: Spanish, English
UK rental release: 13th October 2003

Rotten Tomatoes

Every now and then, you need a bit of luck in life. For the participants of the games in Intacto however, you need as much fluke as you can grasp! Set in an slight alternate world where luck is a commodity that can be harnessed and used, this film aims to depict how far someone is willing to go, not only for thrills, but to defeat the seemingly impossible.

Tomás (Leonardo Sbaraglia, Burning Money, Red Lights) is the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash. Little does he know that his reason for being alive after such a tragic event is due to his natural luckiness. Frederico (Eusebio Poncela) takes Tomás under his wing as his new protégé since is ex-boss stripped him of his own power of fortune. Frederico plans to enhance Tomás' ability through an underground league of extraordinary games; trials to test an individuals bravery and, most importantly, their luck. of this is to get a shot at the title - to challenge the luckiest man alive to a mano-a-mano game of chance. Said title holder (and Frederico's fluke stealing employer) is Samuel (Max von Sydow, The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist, Minority Report), a mystery amongst the contestants, and the El Dorado of fortune. Will Tomás have what it takes to reach this final test? Can he outrun the police officer, Sara (Mónica López), who's hot on his trail to stop the games? Can he trust his new sensei and comrade Frederico? Only time, and luck, will tell...
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo will later become better known for his decent sequel, 28 weeks later. However, it is in this, his first feature length outing as a director, that his talent for making fantastical themes grounded really shines. On the surface, Intacto sounds like a pretentious and over-the-top science fiction drama, but instead it is a calmly thought-out, and delicately presented story of a man who, through influences around him, is set to task in challenging his own instincts and his belief in superstitions. Fresnadillo handles this unique thematic core with the precision of a more experienced director, and the concepts created by himself and his co-writer, Andrés M. Koppel, are genuinely brilliant - especially the trials themselves. One game in particular (of which the film is most famous for) involves running blindfolded through a dense forest, and was the inspiration of a great music video for a Pendulum remix of classic Prodigy track, Voodoo People. 

The cast is very good too. Clearly, the always exquisite Max von Sydow can make any role, no matter how minuscule and weak, into a towering presence of acting brilliance. But I am particularly impressed with the reservedness and tranquillity of Eusebio Poncela, as our bitter Jedi master of luck...a Yoda of fortune, if you will. With minimal effort, he has a cool but stirring presence on screen and holds our hand through the tale as both a gambling Lothario and the voice of experience. With this character, you really feel him trying to live his life through Tomás, creating a great tapestry for his part in the story and bringing some weight to some of the more patient moments while we wait for the next game.

Intacto is not loved by all, but is a great candidate for excellent indie world cinema at the turn of the new millennium. It's a great choice if looking for an intriguing watch, and for those of you who are a little nervy of stepping into the realms of foreign cinema may find this Anglo-Spanish journey a little easier to swallow, especially as the games also segment the whole film nicely with some bizarre activities. But please...don't try them at home!

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