Cell 211 (Celda 211) (2009)

Starring: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann, Antonio Resines, Marta Etura, Carlos Bardem, Fernando Soto

Directed by: Daniel Monzón

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Juan (Alberto Ammann) and Malamadre (Luis Tosar) in Cell 211

Things are looking rosy for Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann). His lovely wife is six months pregnant and he's just landed a new job as a prison officer. Eager to make a good impression, he turns up for work a day early to check out the lay of the land.

Big mistake. Huge.

Because that day, a riot breaks out in the prison, and Juan finds himself trapped behind enemy lines, stranded in cell 211. The riot is masterminded by a baldy-heided psycho named Malamadre (the superbly scary Luis Tosar), and Juan's only hope is to convince this beetle-browed villain that he's a fellow prisoner. But when his wife is injured as a demonstration outside the prison is brutally suppressed by police and guards, a desperate Juan starts to wonder which side he really belongs on...

Prison riot in gripping thriller Cell 211

Cell 211 is a corking prison thriller, but it's also so much more. Like Donnie Brasco or ID, it's a gripping tale of loss of identity when a good man goes undercover with bad men, as Juan finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into Malamadre's protest. It's also a shocking parable about how violence can only beget further violence, the savage nature of the prisoners exacerbated by the brutality of the prison regime they're rebelling against, their riot met with calculated aggression. And it's a surprisingly touching 'mismatched buddy' movie, as knuckle-headed Malamadre takes Oliver under his wing, admiring his gutsy response to the situation and placing an unprecedented trust in his judgment.

With great performances and a roller-coaster ride of a plot, if you liked A Prophet then this tense, gritty, enthralling and at times truly shocking Spanish thriller will have you bang to rights.

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