Review: ‘GAL’

As efficient and thriller-ish as his 2004 hit, "El lobo," Miguel Courtois' "GAL" is a less punchy inquiry into a murky episode in Spain's past — the government’s 1980s "dirty war" on ETA (Basque) terrorists.

As efficient and thriller-ish as his 2004 hit, “El lobo,” Miguel Courtois’ “GAL” is a less punchy inquiry into a murky episode in Spain’s past — the government’s 1980s “dirty war” on ETA (Basque) terrorists. Following two journalists as they plunge ever deeper into the moral tangle of where terrorism ends and the state begins, pic seems unsure about whether to settle a historical score or to provide an entertaining ride. As a result, it doesn’t fully convince either way, suggesting that offshore interest beyond fests and Spanish-language territories will be slower than on “Lobo.”

Locally, critics’ judgment has been clouded by the fact that the film was funded by El Mundo, the same newspaper that launched the real-life investigation. And exec producer Melchor Miralles was one of the investigating journos.

GAL — the Spanish government’s anti-terrorist wing — was quiet for a year when suddenly an innocent man was blown up in France. He was not GAL’s first innocent victim.

Journos Manuel (Jose Garcia) and Marta (Natalia Verbeke), working under editor Pablo (Abel Folk), get an anonymous tip and are soon on the trail of GAL head Ariza (Jordi Molla).

As the complex tale unwinds involving high-level government corruption and incompetence, both of the journalists get roughed up by heavies. The narrative shuttles ably between present and past, introducing a plethora of lawyers, mercenaries and politicians. (French thesp Bernard le Coq has been dubbed into Spanish to sound like real-life ex-president Felipe Gonzalez.)

Eventually, Ariza’s former g.f., Soledad (Ana Alvarez), agrees to testify against him. Story descends into farce in the final reels, however, as Ariza unwittingly arrests an innocent old-timer.

Pic only rarely shakes off its methodical air: Scripter Antonio Onetti’s desire to stick close to the truth as he sees it allows opportunities for suspense to be lost.

Histrionics are Molla’s hallmark as a thesp, and here the excess suits the character of Ariza. But Garcia and Verbeke are lightweight heroes and never quite overcome the suspicion they’re doing all this as a career move rather than for ethical reasons.

Crisp visuals are proficient without being striking, and Francesc Giner’s score (imitating a ticking bomb) is suitably ominous.

GAL

Spain-France

Production

An Aurum release of a Mundo Ficcion (Spain)/Mai Juin (France) production, with participation of TeleMadrid, Canal 9, IB3, TV Murcia, ETB. (International sales: EuropaCorp, Paris.) Executive producer, Melchor Miralles. Directed by Miguel Courtois. Screenplay, Antonio Onetti.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Carlos Suarez; editor, Guillermo Maldonado; music, Francesc Giner; art director, Llorenc Miquel; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Manuel Carrion. Reviewed at Palacio de la Prensa, Madrid, Nov. 10, 2006. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Jose Garcia, Natalia Verbeke, Jordi Molla, Ana Alvarez, Merce Llorens, Abel Folk, Jose Angel Egido, Tomas del Estal, Jose Coronado, Bernard le Coq.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading