A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I was participating in Caroline’s World Cinema Series. This project involves watching movies from all over the world and the ultimate goal is to watch at least one movie from every country. For my first stop on my world tour, I visited Spain. The movie Cell 211 is a gripping tale about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The movie, directed by Daniel Monzon, is a Spanish prison flick starring Alberto Ammann, Luis Tosar, and Antonio Resines.
It starts out with Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) touring a prison with two prison guards. Juan is starting work as a prison guard on the following day and he wanted to make a good impression by going the day before he started to show that he has initiative. During his visit, there is an accident and he is knocked unconscious. Right when this happens, Malamadre (Luis Tosar), a leader of a violent group of inmates in the prison, takes over the prison. Malamadre had learned that Basque terrorists affiliated with the ETA were being held in the same prison. He takes these prisoners as hostages since he knows the Spanish government will not want to infuriate the ETA (a Basque nationalist and separatist organization) and uses them for his own advantage. He is angry over the deplorable conditions inside the prison, including prison guards who are abusive and the lack of health care for injured and sick inmates.
The two guards that are with Juan when he is knocked unconscious are fearful for their own lives and leave Juan in Cell 211. Juan wakes up and hears the violence outside the cell door. Quickly he assesses the situation and realizes that his only chance for survival is to convince the other prisoners that he is a prisoner as well. Before he is discovered, he gets rid of his belt and other objects that no prisoner would be allowed to keep. Slowly he gains the trust of Malamadre and becomes a key player in the prison riot.
This is an intense movie, not just for the violence, but for the economic and political issues raised. I found the issue of taking a group of terrorists as hostages to use them as a bargaining chip against the Spanish government fascinating. And it lends great insight into how powerful the group was at the time since the government did not want to anger the ETA. It also explores how prisoners of violent crimes should be treated while being incarcerated.
The film won eight Goya Awards (Spain’s national film awards), including Best Director, Best Actor for Tosar, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. It was intense from beginning to end. The violence at points was hard to watch, but given the subject matter, I don’t know if it would have been a powerful movie without it.
If you would like to read all the reviews from all over the world, please visit Caroline’s page. They are adding up quickly!
This sounds very interesting.It was about time Spain got its answer to the Irish IRA movies. I wonder how much you heard about the ETA in the US? They have been in the news and newspapapers so often…
I agree, showing a certain degree of violence was probabaly needed for a topic like this but maybe hard to watch. Thanks for a great review.
I enjoyed this movie. Like I said the violence was difficult, but I don’t know how they could tell a story about a group of violent inmates without showing it. And I can be squeamish at times.
I was somewhat familiar with the ETA in the US. Sometimes you would see some coverage on the news or in the paper. However, I also read news sources that aren’t from the States, like the Economist. Of course since moving here, I hear a lot more about European news and issues. And I hear less about the States. It is hard to find the perfect balance.
Saw this on IMDB, together with reading your review, I’m thinking about watching this movie. And about the violence, you’re right. Sometimes you should see the cold hard truth. Good review!
I hope you enjoy it. I don’t see a way how they could have sugar-coated the material without ruining the power of the story. I hope you enjoy it!
This sounds like something I would watch — way to sell it!
I liked it and I hope you do as well!
Sounds very interesting TBM!!
the more intense the movie,the more I enjoy it. I’ll take a mental note to check it one day.
I am the only one who haven’t shared my World cinema series yet…too many excitement in one month and I have no room for movie review…yet.
This is an intense film. I hope you get a chance to watch it. And I’m looking forward to your reviews when you get more time.
Sounds awesome! Great share!
Thanks Hook! It is an exciting movie!
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