Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

dir Pedro C Alonso
scr Pedro C Alonso, Beto Bussi
prd Borja Pena, Emma Lustres, Juan Sola, Jaume Collet-Serra
with Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, Ivana Baquero, Richard Brake, Oliver Coopersmith, Anthony Head, Alana Boden, Alexis Rodney, Nacho Aldeguer, Stephen Hughes, Lis M Torron, Garret Wall
release Sp 1.Mar.19,
UK 17.Jan.20
19/Spain 1h37

anderson coopersmith head

marsan and baquero
Completely set within a London radio studio, this Spanish thriller is gripping thanks to its whizzy pace, extraordinary cast and the colourful panache of director Pedro Alonso. The way events play out is skilfully jarring, feeling completely out of control as things get nastier and messier. Perhaps with less screaming the subtext might have been more audible, but it's a taut and chilling ride.
After being viciously attacked by angry listeners, radio star Jarvis (Marsan) is forced by his boss (Head) to team up on-air with his annoying rival Andrew (Anderson). As this evening's Grim Reality programme begins, Jarvis continues his tirade against the lies of Brexit conspirators. Technical glitches cause problems from the start before two masked thugs (Brake and Coopersmith) take the producers (Baquero and Rodney) hostage and seize control of the show. As the studio literally heats up, Jarvis tries to follow their instructions and work out what they really want.
The film cracks along briskly, with the situation spiralling into chaos. The camera prowls around the set, making the studio feel cluttered and claustrophobic, adding to the general confusion. Without knowing why this is happening, Jarvis must think quickly. The attackers do get to their point eventually, and it's a bit of a letdown, because it has nothing to do with Jarvis' rants about Russian interference, billionaire self-interest or fake news manipulating the public. But of course the baddies have more planned for him.

Marsan holds the film together with another remarkable performance as a fairly unlikeable guy forced into almost heroic action. In a gruelling, textured turn, he vividly portrays Jarvis struggling to maintain an even-keel amid seriously horrific events, leading to an outrageous finale. The surrounding cast is less textured, remaining pushy, bullheaded and/or nasty as required. Anderson is particularly effective as an arrogant disruptor, while Baquero adds a steely edge to her bullheaded character.

There are some outrageous twists and turns along the way, including some extreme violence and surreal imagery. And visually the studio resembles an isolated spaceship. So while listeners to Jarvis' programme on this fateful night would be hearing unintelligible gibberish, watching what happens inside the studio is riveting, especially as it taps into the privilege media stars expect to have outside of social mores and legal justice. Not that this is a message film in any way: it's a gritty freak-out that horrifically, and entertainingly, feels like it simply won't end.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 13.Aug.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall