Spanish prison riot thriller with plenty of meaty political subtext
European genre cinema has been delivering some cracking titles of late, none more compelling than prison riot thriller Cell 211. Daniel Monzón’s award-winning Spanish hit takes a clever premise and moulds it into an intense, cat-and-mouse tale that combines strong characters and sweaty suspense.
Cell 211 unfolds in a hell-on-earth prison. Sensitive Juan (Alberto Ammann) is being shown around the facility prior to starting work as a new guard. When a riot erupts, he is hit by masonry and abandoned to his fate. His only hope of survival is to trade on the fact that none of the inmates have seen him. How far is he willing to go to ingratiate himself with the ruthless riot leader, Malamadre (Luis Tosar)?
The premise is sufficient to sustain the film but Monzón ups the stakes by turning the riot into a moral battleground that redefines notions of villain and hero. There is plenty of meaty political subtext in all the testosterone-fuelled violence and even as the implausibilities start to pile up in the third act you are still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Two-thirds of a sensational film is still a considerable result.
General release from Fri 15 Jul.