In this award-winning thriller (eight Goya Awards), new prison officer Juan (Alberto Ammann) has a desperate battle for survival when he’s mistakenly trapped in a prison as a riot unfolds. As Juan takes a tour of the prison grounds, he is injured in a freak accident and left to recover in a vacant cell. Once all hell breaks loose his only way out is by pretending to be a prisoner, but first he’ll have to successfully befriend a violent inmate called Malamadre (Luis Tosar) who is leading the rebellion. With riots kicking off in and outside the prison, Juan’s pregnant wife Elena (Marta Etura) gets caught up in the mayhem, and Cell 211 erupts into an orgy of violence, mistrust, betrayal and vengeance.
In some ways this is by the book cinema, no wonder a Hollywood remake is already in production. A series of unlikely events unfold in order to create layers of tension and adrenaline pumping action, resulting in one of the most gripping thrillers of the year. There’s a little bit of Spanish politics thrown in for good measure, but it’s the characters and performances that will keep you hooked.
Tosar (as shaven headed top dog Malamadre) is breathtakingly real as the prisons big bad. His relationship with Juan is the films true anchor, and the growing respect they share for each other separates Cell 211 from the chasing pack. Even the supporting players make an impact, token characters in a film of this nature, but thanks to the filmmaking talent on both sides of the camera they too make a lasting impression.
With tension you can chew on, great drama, edgy performances and sublime twists, Cell 211 is the toughest Spanish thriller you’ll see all year. Credit to Daniel Monzon for delivering an action packed thriller with brains and heart, soon to be dumbed down by Hollywood, so catch it now before Cruise and Willis take the lead roles in a high-concept buddy movie (probably). AW