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The Dancer Upstairs

85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This taut political thriller set in Latin America marks John Malkovich's explosive directorial debut. Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem (Best Actor, 2000 - Before Night Falls) stars as legit policeman Agustin Rejas, who faces the greatest challenge of his career - to catch the leader of a terrorist movement threatening to collapse his government, while being stopped at every turn by his own corrupt superiors. As the fight becomes more ferocious, Rejas' search brings him ever closer to the guerrilla leader. But when, amidst the chaos, he falls in love with his daughter's ballet teacher (Laura Morante), Rejas must choose between his heart, his country, and his own well-being.

Marking an assured directorial debut for actor John Malkovich, The Dancer Upstairs is a tense, nerve-jangling political thriller that values adult storytelling and emotional depth over cheap thrills. It's a challenge for those accustomed to the frantic pace of Hollywood thrillers, but attentive viewers will be richly rewarded by Malkovich's slow-burn approach to the film's terrorist plot, adapted by Nicholas Shakespeare from his own novel, based on the "Shining Path" movement that terrorized Peru in the 1980s. The plot unfolds in an unnamed Latin American capital, where a lawyer-turned-police detective named Rejas (Javier Bardem) leads an investigation to locate Ezequiel, a terrorist whose followers have left a trail of fear, death and destruction across the city. Rejas falls in love with his daughter's ballet teacher (Laura Morante), but the film's ultimate revelation--a coincidence that Malkovich handles with credible delicacy--throws this simmering drama into stark relief, bringing Bardem's character (and his subtle performance) to a greater awareness of his own personal and political humanity. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • Director and Actor commentary by John Malkovich and Javier Bardem
  • Sundance Channel - Journeys with Malkovich
  • Making-of Featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Montserrat Astudillo, Javier Bardem, Marie-Anne Berganza, Juan Diego Botto, Luís Miguel Cintra
  • Directors: John Malkovich
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2003
  • Run Time: 132 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000AGQ5V
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,107 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Dancer Upstairs" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Carol T. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Though this movie is slow moving and quiet, it is one of the finest films I've seen in forever. Javier Bardem is amazing. No question. The music is spare but affecting (and one of the most memorable parts of this film). I don't want to give away any of the plot but this is a real thinker's love story (in the midst of a terrorist revolution-in-the-making backdrop), smart, brilliant, surprising in every way without gratuitous sex scenes and cheesy, predictable "happily ever after" endings. Malkovich is a genius. Bardem makes you feel his pain. A must see for any smart film lover. Can't recommend enough.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Danusha V. Goska on December 21, 2003
Many viewers simply didn't *get* this movie.
These are the folks who called it slow, too restrained, confusing.
For the thinking viewer, this movie is not slow, and it is not confusing. It is a visual feast that leaves the mind, and soul, reeling; it is a puzzle that stays unfinished just long enough to make its points, and then closes with a heartbreakingly poignant finale.
It is a tightly plotted, emotionally moving film that can be taken on several levels: as a political thriller, as a police procedural, as a meditation on the pleasures of domestic life v. extramarital passion.
Most powerfully, though, this film talks about, and parallels, explosions -- the explosions of art, of politics, of terrorism, and of passion -- v. restraint. The restraint, for example, of a good man trying to live a decent life in a broken world.
It's hard to talk about this film's most brilliant moments without giving away the whole plot, and that you don't want to do, because this movie's surprises are well worth it.
But one can say -- watch how Malkovich uses the color red. Watch how he uses bars, as if the bars of a cage, when shooting Javier Bardem. Notice parallels, including in a scene where a young girl dances before a series of reflecting mirrors. Note the music she dances to. Notice who is the sole person ever to have photographed a certain elusive terrorist.
Note references to Kant, most famous for his "Critique of Pure Reason."
No, this film is no art house puzzle. But it does offer more than the pure pleasure and visual excitement of a nail biting political thriller, which it offers as well.
It offers us food for thought about one of the biggest issues of the day -- terrorism.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Galvin on April 6, 2005
Format: DVD
Augustin Rejas is a former attorney. Disillusioned, he has decided to join the police force in the hopes that he might obviate the rulings of a corrupt court system. Once he has established himself as an Investigator, he is ordered to assemble a small team and to look into a series of events that may or may not be the makings of united revolutionary activity. There are bombings, suicide bombings, assassinations, brown outs and other unmentionable acts of violence committed throughout this unnamed Latin American country. And the perpetrators are a seemingly random assembly of men, women and children, drawn, with no discernable criteria, from the indigenous poor, their Spanish-descended rulers and the buffering middle classes. The violence may occur at any moment, in any degree and from out of any direction; the tension is unbearable.

Inspector Rejas is a massive still presence. His principle investigative instruments are a fascination for fact, an impassive stare and an unrelenting deliberative nature. And with these, he does eventually determine the identity of the leader of this goalless revolution: a former university professor, known only as Ezekiel. But Ezekiel is an empty revelation: Rejas was never really looking for who but for why.

The Dancer Upstairs is commonly described as a political thriller--a misnomer that may dissuade you from recognizing it as a work of another and higher intellectual order. It is, rather, a meditation on the horror of things inexplicable. We are presented with a puzzling succession of events for which we, like Inspector Rejas, must provide an explicating narrative of some sort. Our motivation is the desire to repair the imbalance, to eliminate the random, violent variables that have wrecked our equation for the peace of meaning.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2003
Format: DVD
THE DANCER UPSTAIRS is a fine example of how films conceived and produced by this country can have all the qualities we honor (and hunger for) in foreign films. Based on true events in the late 1980's in Peru, THE DANCER UPSTAIRS is adapted for the screen from the novel by the same name by the author - Nicholas Shakespeare. The story itself is one of extremes in terror, murder, heinous crimes, and all that is associated with terroist activities in a revolutionary framework. Yet Shakespeare has written a screenplay that focuses more on minds of his characters than on their acts. The 'revolutionary' is a professor of philosophy and his nemesis, tracing his identity and capture, is a thinking man's policeman - a lawyer who turned in his black robes to find a better way to discover honesty. Although Malkovich does not spare images that convey the atrocities (children as suicide bombers, slaughtered dogs hanging from the street lamps, mafia-style executions), he does not dwell on them but rather focuses on the impact on the mind of his lead detective. Javier Bardem is the lead actor here and surpasses his previous successes by demonstrating that he is a 'work in progress' - an actor who grows with every difficult assignment he encounters. His sidekick is well acted by Juan Diego Botto, an actor who knows the subtlties of 'supporting role'. The lead women actors, Laura Morente(as the dancer of the title) and Alexandra Lancastre (as Bardem's wife), are as subtle as they are beautiful, making us believe in the inevitable proof of Bardem's human frailty as he forges his imperturable trail toward justice.Read more ›
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