Cell 211 (Celda 211) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cell 211 (Celda 211) Reviews

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January 3, 2017
I never really felt the need to examine the definition of word "Protagonist", that was until I watched Cell 211 (Spanish: Celda 211). Earlier, I had a notion that protagonist should be virtuous and altruistic. I had to refer Oxford English Dictionary which defined protagonist as "the main character in a play, film/movie or book" and that protagonist doesn't necessarily mean the righteous one. Halfway into the film is when you will apprehend the reason why I am boring you with these definitions.

This 2009 film from Spain is one of the most iconic films about prison politics. The first thing that comes into everyone's mind when they think of prison is "don't drop the soap". Cell 211 examines the cause and effect of prison subjects very far from much hyped soap business. What if Prison, the very purpose of which is to confine and incarcerate people charged with crimes, uses criminal methods to provide correctional officers with unwarranted advantage over inmates to such extent that one may say enough is enough? If history has taught us anything, it's that nothing is permanent. What if inmates were to stand up against tyranny of correctional officers? Do their past crimes validate the methods used against them? Sometimes the line that separates right from wrong becomes so thin that one may question his judgment and morality. We, as an audience, constantly face this dilemma while trying to pick up sides during the whole length of movie.

The film has one of the most memorable opening scenes that don't really serve any purpose to the story line but its there for a reason and the reason alone is to warn the audience that this film does not care about their expectations for some kind of release or catharsis. It would be a sin to describe the scene to the uninitiated. It must unfold itself as it slowly grows inside you and sets the tone of the film. The movie starts as an investigation of events leading up to the conclusion of prison riot. Juan Oliver, newly appointed prison officer, decides to take a tour of prison but an accident knocks him unconscious and he is rushed by prison officers to empty but apparently haunted walls of cell 211. In the mean time, murder of another prison guard by an inmate (an extraordinary one) quickly develops into a riot leading to convicts breaking free and hijacking control of the penitentiary. Aware of the violence that is to come, the prison officers flee, leaving Juan stranded and unconscious in the heart of the riot. When Juan awakens, he immediately takes stock of the situation; in order to survive, he must pretend to be a prisoner.

Cell 211 may be about the chaos of prison riot but its essence lies not in violence but rather in beauty of friendship in the most unusual of circumstances between two polarizing characters, Juan- the prison officer and Malamadre- the inmate. Script transforms into a character study, in which the prison inmate, Malamadre, becomes a scholar of depravity and the younger Juan experiences it in a pitiable and personal way. The enigma of Malamadre's character is at the heart of the film, and this is one of Luis Tosar's best performances. He embodies authority naturally; much like his other works such as Te doy mis ojos 2003. Here he knows all the lessons an inmate might internalize during years spent in what we learn is one of the worst prisons of the country. Malamadre is introduced early into the film and dominates the film from that point forward. This actor is entrusted with big assignment. He embodies Authority. Like Hans Landa, his character must be played by a strong actor who projects not merely villainy but authoritarian. Observe his face- Smug,Self-satisfied. Listen to his voice-Articulate, analytical. Mark his composure and apparent fearlessness. The film essentially depends on him, and would go astray if the actor faltered. He never does.

Elena, Juan's pregnant wife, brings a note of compassion into the picture. Watching the film, we assume Elena's character is simply a place-holder, labeled protagonist's wife and denied much depth. But she is saving her impact until later. The film is fast paced with chaos erupting one after another wherein the flashbacks of intimate moments between Elena and Juan comes into play to provide the story with more passion. The most interesting part is watching Juan win the confidence of Malamadre and other inmates with his wit and playing a double-agent at the same time.

I learn from internet that the name "Malamadre", seemingly so meaningless for us non-Europeans, actually serves a purpose. Malamadre literally translates into Bad Mother in Spanish which is a plant oftenly called as Spider plant (botanical name Chlorophytum Comosum). The spider plant is so named because of its spider-like plants, or spiderettes, which dangle down from the mother plant like spiders on a web signifying the persona of Malamadre's inherent character as the inmates' confidante.

Like Malamadre, Cell 211 keeps its words.
December 9, 2016
One of the best prison movies ever made..!
August 28, 2016
The tension is high and the film is violent and gritty, but it also takes some leaps of logic and coincidences. The acting is decent and the film has a few nice little twists so its a decent thriller but not amazing.
½ May 6, 2016
This is something you would rarely find in Hollywood. Intense and realistic all the way through. There isn't the typical Hollywood ending you may have hoped for but its as believable as it can get.
It's not just action or suspense oriented but discusses themes about code of honor and justice
April 20, 2016
Amazing directing and great acting by the leads.
½ May 17, 2015
Outstanding movie........great characters and an unbelieveable catch 22 situation. If you liked Un Prophete or Carandiru you'll love this..................is it just me or is foreign cinema kicking Hollywood's ass even more than usual over the last few years?
January 20, 2015
Inteligente drama carcelario y una de las peliculas espa├▒olas m├ s taquilleras del pasado a├▒o.Seguro que ya piensan en su versi├▓n americana.
December 26, 2014
Magnificient movie with wonderful actings (exceptional Luis Tosar as Malamadre, with his accent from Seville, even enormously fun in some moments, and scaring the others), about prisons, corruption, power, honor codes, and what can happen to a man when he is in the wrong place, and how he can change. Intense and powerful.
October 12, 2014
Bought a good movie again , so this was the second time watching this ...still a great prison movie , like the genre anyway ! SOMDVD
October 4, 2014
Brutal, fascinating action film.
September 29, 2014
All I can say is Luis Tosar is such a bad ass here. The tension of this film builds up as the plot heats and gives more interesting moments.
½ June 18, 2014
It has it all: electrifying performances, clever script and exquisit direction.
March 25, 2014
"Nearly every minute throbs with heart-pounding suspense, from the opening scene of a prisoner slashing his wrists with a razor blade fashioned from a cigarette filter to its mournful, blood-soaked conclusion." "Director Daniel Monzon's picture - very well acted by the leads - manages to combine extremely clever, unpredictable plotting with plausible but unexpected character development, elevating standard genre fare to something much more substantial."
March 15, 2014
This is so far removed from your typical prison drama it's almost an insult to categorize it as one! This is an Electrifying, incredibly clever, intense thriller! And like the inmates it's not above breaking the rules!
February 19, 2014
An artistic and commercial success, the film won eight Goya Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Luis Tosar) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
½ February 8, 2014
Exceptional Movie.......Even reading subtitles didn't spoil this movie!
February 2, 2014
Great film, great performances, specially from argentine co-star Alberto Ammann
½ January 24, 2014
Undoubtedly better than Jingle All The Way.
January 15, 2014
Infinitely realistic prison-drama, a very intelligent plot which plays also moral dilemmas but avoiding sentimentality,
wise and impressive direction, excellent casting with performances bordering on perfection.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2014
If you get through the gory opening scene, then you will probably love the rest of this action-packed prison flick that draws a very fine line between the good guys and the bad guys with its clever conceit: an eager new guard comes in a day before he starts his job and, through a terrible coincidence, gets caught up in a riot for the ages. There's one scene that seems unlikely - slight spoiler, a much-hated guard is thrown to the wolves - but the rest of the movie is white-knuckle drama (with a surprising and interesting political dimension behind it) that takes a character and tests him in a way a few films do. Brave, exciting work that swept the Goyas (Spain's Oscars) in 2009. Definitely see this one.
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