To understand why I absolutely loved Cell 211 (Celda 211) you have to understand my adoration of crime film. I aspire to be a criminologist, and seeing a film that describes the problems of crime, violence and penology, both from a realistic personal, societal and political level is an absolute treat. Cell 211 does this and more.
Alberto Ammann plays Juan (virtually in his first ever role) a prison guard about to start his job at a new corrections facility the next day; trying to prove himself he shows up for a tour of the state and policies of the place, but is faced with the horrors of prison reality when a mutiny breaks loose, lead by the very convincingly badass Malamadre (Luis Tosar). Juan pretends to be an inmate in order to, well, not get killed.
The prisoners feel mistrated; they demand that isolation be rid of, doctors to examine patients in person, not through the bars etc. All fairly reasonable demands, but when they take three members of the ETA as prisoners, the politics starts running the show.
Extremely violent and gasp-worthy (one of the scenes actually made the whole audience gasp in unison), Cell 211 isn’t for everyone. Often times I prefer some well placed, relevant violence in films, just because I think it makes things more graspable, gritty and realistic. Some the scenes here are very graphic, but in my view actually enjoyable. Being mainly a political exploration, discovering the power relations both inside the prison inmates and outside, with guards, management, politicians, government, the media and ‘terrorist’ groups fighting for their way to become the only way, Cell 211 provides maybe not a factually completely truthful, but still a realistic account of prison life, and it does so from multiple perspectives. The roles of villains and good guys get mixed up, you feel sympathy for absolute scum. For me this film gave a lot to think about, more than any other film in ages. Would truly recommend this from the bottom of my heart to anyone not too squimish and interested in crime, politics and all that comes with it.
9.5 / 10
You will like Cell 211 if …
– you loved A Prophet.
– Prison Break was one your favorite tv shows.
– you’re interested in Spanish culture.