Cell 211

Cell 211 is a tense prison drama from Spain. It tells the story of Juan Oliver who while visiting the prison he will start work in the next day as a guard gets trapped inside during a full scale riot and must take on the role of an inmate to survive. He assumes the role to convince everyone that he is a new intake for murder and thus one of them but in doing so he will have to make tough choices and perform even tougher actions. There are a few flashbacks to show us Juan’s home life and apart from a couple of bits from outside the whole film is claustrophobically shot inside the prison walls, the inmates so convincing that you won’t believe they are not real prisoners. The gang leader Malamadre played by Luis Tosar, who is a muscle bound tattooed powder keg, is particularly good and it is in his performance and relationship with Juan that the films best tension can be found. Based on a book the story is powerful and there are a few surprises in where it goes and despite the grey settings and undercurrent of lawless violence it can actually be very moving at times. Beautifully shot it reminds me a little of the Prophet and Hunger and that coupled with strong acting and the ethical and moral dilemmas makes Cell 211 a great, but challenging, watch.

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