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Monday, July 25, 2011

316. Cell 211 (Celda 211)

    After Bobby Fischer and Bal, the Sunday movie marathon moved across Sheffield to Cineworld.
    I must confess, however, that I ran out of steam after three films and didn't get around to Bollywood's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobar - I had just run out of umph.
    It's possible that Daniel Monzon's Cell 211 should take some of the blame for that because just watching it felt physically draining.
    This Spanish prison drama is relentless in its violence and intimidation but also in its plot turns.
    But while it maybe tough it is riveting.
    All of the action takes place on the wing of a jail where murderers and rapists are held.
    It begins on the day a young guard, Juan Olivier (Alberto Ammann), turns up for a quick induction. As he is being shown around, a riot begins and he is trapped in Cell 211.
    Knowing that if the inmates realise he is a guard they will kill him, he pretends he is a convicted killer who has just arrived at the prison.
    That sounds easier than it is because top of the list of those he has to convince is the rioters' leader, the unhinged Malamadre (bad mother in English).
    At first it is clear that Olivier is the good guy, trapped by circumstance and having to constantly think on his feet to avoid revealing his real identity.
    Also, it seems obvious that Malamadre is just your average megalomaniac psychopath who sees violence as the only way of getting what he wants.
    But over the following 105 minutes both characters show depths beyond even their imagination.
    In the meantime, the prison authorities are faced with finding a way of ending the crisis knowing that every wrong decision could costs lives. They make plenty.
    Director Monzon does a terrific job here.
    Of course, his movie has a high level of violence, although none of it is gratuitous or not necessary to the plot. He never lets it overwhelm the drama.
    The clever part is that, while the action is relentless, he still manages to develop the characters well beyond the superficial.
    He is helped by some super performances from his leads. Tosar growls his was through the movie, oozing malice. Meanwhile, Ammann seems to fill the screen more and more as the film progresses.
    I must admit I am a sucker for Spanish thrillers. The language seems to lend itself to intimidation but, aside of my wild generalisations, Cell 211 is a cracking movie.
    Paul Haggis is apparently the man behind the Hollywood version, due out in 2013. He will have his work cut out.
    The rating for the Spanish version? 8.5/10


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316. Cell 211 (Celda 211)

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