Review: “Celda 211” @ San Sebastian Film Festival

Celda 211
Country of Origin: Spain
Directed by: Daniel Monzón

Starring: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann

This excellent movie comes right behind Exit Through the Gift Shop for my second favorite of the week.

By no means my own discovery, Celda 211 (Cell 211) was one of the most popular Spanish movies of 2010, and a recipient of no less than 8 Goya Awards (Best Lead Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Breakthrough Actor, and Best Director, Editing, Picture, Screenplay, and Sound).  Damn.  Celda 211 is also one of the three films representing Spain at the Oscars, all of which star Spain’s up-and-coming actor from Galicia, Luis Tosar.  Tosar is a Spanish actor to watch out for, and this movie is a great introduction to Spanish cinema of 2010.

Celda 211 is the story of a Juan (Alberto Ammann), a newly recruited prison guard who gets caught up in a riot on his first day at work.  Thinking quickly, he changes his clothes and pretends to be an inmate to survive the chaos.

The circumstances push him to the leader of the riot, a notoriously vicious prisoner named ‘Malamadre’ (Luis Tosar).  For better or worse, Juan and Malamadre are both neck deep in the riot while the police try to find a way to quell the riot and rescue their newest co-worker from the chaos.  The plot thickens as Malamadre takes hostage three Basque prisoners from ETA, thereby raising the stakes and complicating any easy resolution.

In my opinion this film succeeded for the precise reasons Chicogrande failed.  Whereas Chicogrande portrayed the protagonists as infallible heroes and the antagonists as purely evil, Celda 211 tells a more accurate tale of justice – the cops and prison guards have just as much evil in their hearts as the prisoners have good, if not more.

Justice as administered by our fellow man is never straightforward, as demonstrated by the extremely well-crafted characters of Celda 211.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The plot took so many unsuspected turns that Juan’s joining the riot proved to be only the initial twist.

I highly recommend this film to anyone keen for a gripping drama with an insightful look into the concepts justice and Spanish society.  Check out the trailer here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: