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Celda 211/Cell 211


Stars: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann, Antonio Resines, Marta Etura, Carlos Bardem, Manuel Moron, Luis Zahera, Vicente Romero, Fernando Soto, Jesus Carroza, Manolo Solo, Xavier Estevez.

Director: Daniel Monzon

Prison movies tend to come in two types – criminals on the rampage and/or prison officials trying to cope with rioting and usually inimical inmates. This Spanish take on the theme should keep you imprisoned in your seat early on, thanks to a strong screenplay that takes genre clichés and reworks them to excellent effect - and to director and co-writer Monzon’s creation of escalating and inexorable suspense.

It helps, too, that Ammann is credible and powerful playing a new prison guard who, while taking a tour of his new working environment the day before he begins work, is knocked out by a chunk of falling ceiling and left in the eponymous cell while his colleagues go for help. He wakes up to find himself in the middle of bloody riot led by all-too-convincing vicious criminal Tosar. Ammann's only hope of survival lies in his being able to convince the rioters that he is a fellow inmate. Which is no easy matter given that Tosar is a scary psycho…

The setting is suitably claustrophobic while Tosar, Monzon and the film (suitably shot in an abandoned jail) have all rightly won awards. Inevitably a Hollywood remake is planned. Just pray it is even half as good as the original.

Alan Frank

Spain 2009. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour.
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 16 Jul 2011