Deborah Ross

Brutal but brilliant

Cell 211 is a brilliantly ingenious Spanish prison drama and I would recommend it even though I didn’t see so much of it.

Cell 211 is a brilliantly ingenious Spanish prison drama and I would recommend it even though I didn’t see so much of it.

Cell 211 is a brilliantly ingenious Spanish prison drama and I would recommend it even though I didn’t see so much of it. I might even have seen as little as 40 per cent, there are so many head-behind-hands moments. It is packed with Tarantino-style violence, and, I think, even a ear being sliced off — a ear was about to be sliced off and, when I looked up again, it was definitely gone, so I’m pretty sure this is what happened — but the plotting is so fine and the suspense so blinding and the character strokes so masterful I was totally gripped. (Gripped while wishing it was all over, but gripped all the same.) Usually, I would not see a film like this. But, in a Harry Potter week, you have to take whatever else you can get…and, frankly, I think I’d prefer to not watch an ear being sliced off than actually watch Hermione prissy-ing it about all over the place. It’s just the way I am, I guess. (See Toby Young review, page 49.)

The set-up is simple yet wondrously clever. Juan (played by Argentinian newcomer Alberto Ammann, who is a dish and excellent; a sort of Latino version of James McAvoy) is a prison guard who turns up to his new job a day early. Big mistake, Juan, big mistake.

As his fellow guards are giving him a tour of the high-security cell block, where the most dangerous prisoners are held, a riot breaks out and he is hit on the head by a lump of concrete, and knocked out. The other guards dump him in Cell 211, which is empty, and skedaddle, thinking they will retrieve him once everything gets under control.

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