Friday, July 23, 2010

Cell 211

Your first day at work can be stressful but I guarantee it was never as bad for you as it was for newbie prison guard, Juan Olivier. In fact for Juan things start to go badly the day before his first day. While he is being shown around the prison, a riot breaks out led by the swaggering Malamadre.

This tense thriller rarely gives you a moment to unclench your fingers as it plunges from one crisis to the next. The balance of power snaps back and forth between the prisoners and the prison authorities as each side looks for an edge over the other, with Juan being caught in the middle. Circumstances force him to deal with the dangerous and unpredictable Malamadre and their relationship is the thread that runs through this movie.

Violence is an integral part of Cell 211 and the woman sitting next to me almost leaped on her companion at one point. It also captures and reflects the anger, fear and frustration of each side, with an intensity that is often missing in thrillers with less mundane settings. These people don't have the high tech resources and extraordinary skills that are all too common in films like the Bourne series. Both sides have limited information, limited resources and internal conflicts, and are only separated from each other by one or two walls and some bars or glass. The violence is mostly inflicted at short range, making the experience much more intense.

There are almost no wasted scenes and it pays to remember every unimportant detail and throw away line, because they may become important in deciphering a later turn of events. Despite the fact that because the action takes place in a prison, which constrains the events, Cell 211 still manages to be unpredictable to the end.

Ian's rating 5/5

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