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Winner of 8 Goya Awards (Spain&39;s Oscars) including Best Film, Actor, Director and Screenwriter, this politically taut and fast-paced prison thriller is the most internationally acclaimed Spanish film of the past year. On his first day on the job, prison officer Juan Olivier (Alberto Ammann) is knocked unconscious in a freak accident and his co-workers carry him to an empty cell. When he awakens, Juan discovers that he has been abandoned in the middle of a riot in a high security cellblock home to the prison s most dangerous criminals. If they discover he's a guard, he s dead meat. To survive, Juan must pose as a prisoner and conspire with the riot's vicious leader, Malamadre (Luis Tosar, The Limits of Control). As the violence escalates and political fallout mounts, Juan uses all his cunning to stay alive.
Special Features Include:
-New transfer, enhanced for widescreen viewing
-Optional English and Spanish subtitles
-Making-of documentary (28 mins)
-Original theatrical trailer
A powerful prison melodrama, Daniel Monzón's Cell 211 was a real jailhouse riot at the 2010 Goya Awards, Spain's version of the Oscars: the picture took eight prizes, including Best Film, Director, and Actor (for Luis Tosar). This will not surprise fans of the movie, which rockets along with a brilliant opening premise and a muscular, violent approach to the genre. That premise puts a new prison guard, Juan (Alberto Ammann), on a tour of the facility the day before he actually begins his job. At that very moment, the prisoners stage a takeover, and Juan is caught inside--but hmm, they've never seen him before and don't know he's actually a guard. What if he tried to brazen it out and pretend to be a newbie prisoner himself? This dangerous masquerade creates automatic suspense, and the film has the refreshing virtue of having Juan act intelligently about his survival, instead of the usual backing-into-a-story-because-someone-does-something-stupid. The movie is truly powered by the instigator of the uprising, the fearsome Malamadre, played in a furious turn by Tosar (Mondays in the Sun, Miami Vice). The early plotting, and the cat-and-mouse stuff involving Juan and Malamadre, is strong enough to keep the movie going through a few questionable developments in the second half. The thing stirs up a hornet's nest--always a potent movie formula when contained within the walls of a prison. --Robert Horton
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Cell 211 is fundamentally a movie about the uncertainty that, usually unnoticed, pervades modern life, the risks that are not acknowledged until circumstances and happenstance force them upon us. We are typically oblivious, not even off-handedly acknowledging the things that could go wrong. If it were otherwise, we'd go mad because there are just too many unforeseeable horrors. If you're naturally lucky or exceptionally privileged, the force-feeding of unexpected and terrible outcomes can be minimized. After all, rich people don't become prison guards and rarely go to jail. But the risks, even for them, are never completely eliminated. That's just the way the world works. That's why risk assessment has become formally institutionalized in modern organizations.
Even those who are ostentatiously cynical and who complain about the bad hand they've been dealt or the corruption and incompetence that pervade our world are vulnerable to the nastiest surprises. Cynicism is no safeguard against being taken frighteningly unaware. Pain and loss, even at their most abstract and inclusive, don't exhaust the demeaning, brutalizing, identity destroying outcomes, because they so often come as a complete shock, totally unexpected, taking forms that never occurred to us, and bringing to the fore thoughts and feelings that were once alien to our nature, but now, shockingly, we harbor them.
Why so? Because whatever our character, we have come to trust the world, thinking we know how it works, that there will be no real surprises, passing judgment and making decisions without recognizing that everything rests on a shaky foundation. Modern institutions, whether the criminal justice system, politics, religion, medicine, marriage and the family -- extend the list indefinitely -- provide us with a repertoire of commonsense expectations based on totally inadequate man-in-the-street knowledge. When the expectations aren't met, when prison guards beat to death innocent women and do so with impunity, we become outraged, confused, wary, and mistrustful. But eventually we calm down and go back to equanimity, back to a marginally modified but still intact set of expectations and taken-for-granted assumptions that trick us into making the world livable. Most of the time.
On occasion, however, the failures of modern society and the institutions we take for granted even as we sardonically berate them take a toll too heavy to bear. We see life for what it is, a crap game with rules that are routinely broken in countless ways for countless reasons, and even the people closest to us may let us down, if only because they are mortal and may simply die, leaving us alone. The arbitrary conventions that made the world interpretable and trustworthy are so badly out of whack that we retreat into psychosis, betray brethren, die prematurely from one natural cause or another, ineffectually rebel, immerse ourselves heart and soul in a meaningless social cause, or just quit, which may or may not involve suicide. This is the world that gave rise to a place and locus of activity with the sterile, bureaucratic designation Cell 211.
But let's stop for a moment. This is a prison movie. The convicts deserve to be where they are. What happens happens. Right? In this case there are notable exceptions, conspicuous institutional failures, and these are just the plainly obvious ones, and they are not the only victims. One failure begets another. For the long term, we have a dark, chilling, desperate view of the world in intense microcosm. So, yes, Cell 211 is a thriller and a prison movie, but it's a good deal more. It's life as a crap game loaded with grotesque surprises.