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Intact

The long-awaited feature debut from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, whose "Linked" was shortlisted for best live-action short at the 1997 Oscars, shows a desire to impress, places style over substance and has a chilliness in its treatment of human relationships -- all ultimately signaling it as an apprentice work.

Max Von Sydow, Eusebio Poncela, Leonardo

A self-aware, intriguing and technically accomplished fantasy thriller firmly in the Hollywood tradition, “Intact” has a confidence and expertise not seen from a Spanish tyro since Alejandro Amenabar’s “Thesis” (1996). The long-awaited feature debut from Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, whose “Linked” was shortlisted for best live-action short at the 1997 Oscars, shows a desire to impress, places style over substance and has a chilliness in its treatment of human relationships — all marking it as clearly aimed at younger auds and ultimately signaling it as an apprentice work. Home B.O., on the back of a strong marketing drive, has been solid rather than spectacular. Nonetheless, offshore buyers could be seduced by the project’s energy, polish and intelligence.

Nazi concentration camp survivor Sam (Max Von Sydow) lives in the basement of a casino on a Spanish island. He possesses the gift of “good luck” — here a commodity which can be bought, sold and gambled. Early scenes show him stealing “good luck”from acolyte and one-time earthquake survivor Federico (Eusebio Poncela). Federico vows revenge, which will come in the form of a showdown between Sam and whichever luck-blessed individual Federico can find to represent him.

Seven years later, Tomas (Argentinean thesp Leonardo Sbaraglia, whose profile in Spain is rising rapidly) survives a plane crash but is immediately arrested, as the proceeds from a bank heist are found wrapped around his waist. Federico hears about Tomas’ lucky survival and decides he is the perfect candidate.

Instructing Tomas neither to touch him nor to have his picture taken — both could cause Tomas’ good luck to disappear — Federico gets Tomas away from the eyes of the law. The first of several unusual gambling scenes features four blindfolded people — amongst them Tomas and ex-bullfighter Alejandro (under-exploited talent Antonio Dechent) — waiting to see where a huge insect will land. It lands on Tomas, confirming him as Federico’s man.

Tomas wins Alejandro’s country mansion, but a phone call he makes from there to his girlfriend Ana (Paz Gomez) is tapped, and he and Federico have to make a rapid escape. A policewoman, Sara (Monica Lopez), decides to seek out the truth, and finds herself involved in a dark, strange underworld.

Pic is full of attractive ideas, some of them familiar (such as its similarity to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable”). Playing games with fears about identity is nothing new, either, but helmer is dexterous enough to keep up the interest via rapid-fire pacing and daredevil lensing which, though often reminiscent of pop videos, is sometimes truly startling: the images following Tomas’ plane crash are one of several visual highpoints. Otherwise, thrills are more subtle — a drip of blood here, a scar there.

Complex plot hangs together pretty well, though the Sara subplot and Tomas’ relationship with Ana raise questions that are not satisfactorily answered. Perfs are fine, with Von Sydow’s brooding presence lending a necessary gravitas and Poncela’s simian features perfect for his part. In general however, characterization is slim.

Technically, pic is superb, with Xavier Jimenez’s precision lensing the perfect vehicle for pic’s generally strong visual sense: desert landscapes of Tenerife and angular, shadowy interiors are used to equally powerful effect. Parts of dialogue featuring Von Sydow are in English.

Intact

Spain

  • Production: A Warner Sogefilms release of a Sogecine/Telecinco production, in association with Canal Plus. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Executive producers, Fernando Bovaira, Enrique Lopez-Lavigne. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Screenplay, Fresnadillo, Andres Koppel.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Xavier Jimenez; editor, Nacho Ruiz Capillas; music, Lucio Godoy; art director, Cesar Macarron; sound (Dolby Digital), Aitor Berenguer. Reviewed at Cine Princesa, Madrid, Nov. 10, 2001. Running time: 108 MIN.
  • With: <B>With:</B> Leonardo Sbaraglia, Eusebio Poncela, Monica Lopez, Antonio Dechent, Max Von Sydow, Guillermo Toledo, Paz Gomez.<br> (Spanish & English dialogue)