Cell 211 (Daniel Monzón)
You’d imagine that the worst nightmare for a prison guard would be to get locked in with the prisoners. In Cell 211, this is exactly what happens to guard Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann). But he has one thing in his favour; none of the prisoners know this. Juan has visited the prison the day before he is due to start working there, and he finds himself trapped inside the prison’s walls after a piece of the building falls on his head, and a riot breaks out while he is unconscious in cell 211. When he wakes up, he must convince the other prisoners that he is in fact an in-mate, particularly the menacing Malamadre (Luis Tosar), the leader of the rioters.
Juan discovers that the riot has been triggered by the presence of ETA bombers in the prison, who will be killed unless the authorities meet Malamadre’s demands. Trapped inside the prison, Juan faces increasingly difficult decisions as events inside and outside the prison walls unfold.
Cell 211 is a tense and brilliantly scripted and acted Spanish movie, the builds towards a gripping climax that will blur the lines of good and evil. An American remake is already in the pipe-line, but the original is a must-see movie.
Julia’s Eyes (Guillem Morales)
At work one day, Julia (Belén Rueda) suddenly collapses. When she recovers, she senses that something has happened to her twin sister Sara (Rueda again). Julia and husband Isaac (Lluís Homar) visit her sister’s home, where Isaac discovers that Sara has apparently hung herself. Sara was blind, the result of a degenerative disease which is also affecting Julia’s eyesight. Julia becomes convinced that Sara was murdered, and sets out to find the killer only she believes exists, despite her eyesight failing rapidly.
What follows is a game of cat and mouse, as Julia looks for clues, and someone seems out to get her. The plot becomes increasingly complicated as Julia searches for the truth, with secrets about her husband and her sister coming to light.
Rueda gives a fantastic performance as a woman out for the truth about her sister, while fighting an unseen adversary, and losing her sight. She previously starred in The Orphanage, and both movies are produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who never seems to stop working. Julia’s Eyes is an excellent thriller, with an intricate plot and a tense and brilliant finale.
13 Assassins (Takashi Miike)
13 Assassins is set in 19th century Japan, at a time when the Shogun’s younger brother is abusing his power, raping and killing people across the country. A samurai, Shinzaemon is secretly assigned to murder the young lord, and he persuades 11 other samurai to join him in order to overcome the lord’s personal army, before killing him too. After part of the team successfully diverts the lord’s route through the country, a 13th man joins the party. Together they confront the lord and his men in a village they have fortified to their advantage.
And it is here that the final battle takes place, an epic stand-off that lasts for almost half the movie. Shinzaemon and his allies transform the village into a booby-trapped arena, and a bloody battle begins. The action is relentless, and consistently inventive, with the samurai setting elaborate traps to split up the 200 men they must kill before they can get to the lord. Miike of course directed the infamously bloody Ichi The Killer, and while 13 Assassins isn’t as graphic as that movie, there is plenty of blood. 13 Assassins is brutally brilliant, and another great movie to add to Miike’s ever growing list of successes.