13 January 2011

Cell 211 / Celda 211 (Daniel Monzón, 2009, Spain)

Gosh, on the one hand it's a genre film. It's a movie about a prison riot and it features many of the expected tropes. Unlike A Prophet though, its production values are probably more in line with those of a made for television movie. Still, it really won me over. Beautiful Juan has left his pregnant wife at home so he can go in for a sort of orientation at this prison where he'll be working. He finds himself in the middle of a prison riot and poses as a prisoner. The prisoners are using a guard and three Basque prisoners as hostages. There are all sorts of moral and political considerations at play.
I sit here after watching the movie feeling really moved, pretty close to tears. It's interesting the way the film sets up the guards as civilized and the inmates as animals throughout most of the first twenty minutes. I mean, I was prepared for the inevitable reversal but I really found it to be done suavely. I appreciated the moral complexity, as most American mainstream films are about as morally complex as a tater tot. A-

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