Movies set in prison have never been among Trust
Movies favorites, though over the decades a few have taken a permanent place. If Brute Force (1947) no longer holds up as well as we might have wanted, the classic Le Trou (1960) certainly does and most recently The Escapist bodes well to survive. All these films, like most in the prison genre, are about breaking out (or trying to) but the new -- and pretty-damn-sensational -- thriller by Daniel Monzón (shown at left) is not.
CELL 211 (Celda 211) is about prison itself and the society within it -- a microcosm of the larger one without -- and if this sounds like some slow treatise-
movie or character-study, thanks to a plot that catches fire almost immediately and burns non-stop, its 110 minutes fly by. Several things will make this film seem differ-
ent to American audiences, most apparent among these being its unique use of the prisoners who are part the Basque ETA (they're terrorists or not, depending on your view) as pawns in negotiating. Because we come to understand prison society in a more nuanced way than usual, a half dozen or more of the main characters take on remarkable depth and, sometimes, stature.
|In a cast made up of some of Spain's best actors, Luis Tosar (Take My Eyes, Unconscious), shown right, above and in the poster, top, is magnificent and riveting as top dog among the prisoners, with Manuel Moron, Carlos Bardem (shown at bottom), Antonio Resines and Marta Etura (two photos below) providing smart support. The other lead role is taken by Argentine newcomer Alberto Ammann (shown just below), whom the director auditioned when the young man was working as a waiter. That Mr. Ammann holds his own against this storied crew bodes well for his career (since filming Cell 211 he's assumed the lead role in a new film about Lope de Vega).|
|Will the movie get a much-deserved American release? In his Q&A, the adapter/director noted that after the film scree-|
ned at Venice and Toron-
to, he had immediate of-
fers to direct an American remake. "But I've already made this film; I don't want to do it again," he explained (to much appla-
use from the audience). But then, he did seem to assure us that we would, after all, be seeing his ori-
ginal-language version in the U.S. Let's hope.
like look, and so found real prison to shoot in. Once the location was found, the shoot took approximately nine weeks to complete. A full two months was devoted to editing (excellent, by Cristina Pastor; the gritty cinematography is by Carles Gusi).