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Film Four Stars
I hadn't seen The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) starring Ricardo Darín but it had received a lot of praise and had delivered a strong thriller and a good story, so with that in mind I had my eyes on Carancho, another Argentinian film that was breaking worldwide. What I had forgotten is that I had also seen Darín in XXY (Filmstalker review), and had also been taken by his performance, even if it wasn't the lead.

The Glasgow Film Festival introduction was again promising a lot, I say that as the film I saw the previous night, Point Blank, had a similarly huge opening that promised that it would deliver a hugely impactful film. Although it wasn't quite as the introduction had promised, it had delivered an exciting thriller. So I was hopeful for Carancho.

Plot.pngCarancho.jpgThe film follows the story of a man who works for an ambulance chasing firm called the Foundation, part of a large organisation that gets hold of people just involved in accidents and gets them to sign their insurance policies over to them.

They then negotiate on their behalf, holding out for as much money as they can, and keeping a large amount they give their client as little as they can get away with, making them feel like the winner while the Foundation pockets a mammoth payout. It's an all too common practice in Argentina where car accidents and claims are alarmingly high.

Sosa, played by Ricardo Darín, is a lawyer who has lost his licence to practice and is working for the Foundation. He's good, but he's tired of the job, the heartache and lies and wants to get out and get back to his life.

That was his plan until he meets a woman called Luján, played by the gorgeous and highly engaging Martina Gusman,who is a doctor at the local hospital he frequents for business. Soon his feelings for her have brought a desire to stay and make things right, a desire that leads him to go against the Foundation.

TheFilm.pngCarancho is a good thriller but is much more considered than most. It concentrates on building the main characters and their relationship before delving into thriller territory and does it with a lot of style to boot.

Yet this slower pace does go a little slow at some points and while it makes the film stronger there were also some slower moments where I just wanted the film to kick into gear and get moving. These moments weren't too common though and for the most part the relationship between the two leads and the characters themselves were enough to keep me engaged.

Actually although the feeling that the film should hurry up a little kicks in at a few points, looking back the problem isn't with these individual moments. It's more with the long build up to the last act where everything comes to a head. I just wished that this had been a little shorter and there had been a bit more time spent on the conclusions, conclusions which I feel didn't actually conclude.

There's a nice turn of events for the ending, but while this delivers something interesting and a few shocking moments it also adds to the open ended feeling in that we're left hanging with the future of the characters and the story, it does feel a little unexplored.

The good thing is that when the events do take a step up in pace they never turn too fantastical and the thriller stays much lower key than we might expect, more gritty and at a human level. There isn't any Hollywood in this film, even when we come to the action points at the end, and while your stomach may be churning in knots during these closing sequences, and it will be, you're never pulled too far from reality, and it's this grounding that works so well.

It's a view that carries through most of the film, particularly in the locations and the much visited hospital where Luján works. It's rather frightening to watch the conditions and the pressure that the hospital staff is working and that the patients are treated in, but then it's perhaps a view of hospitals that our staff have on a busy Friday or Saturday night, but still it adds to the pressure the film slowly puts on you.

Gusman is a great actress to be alongside the very good and cinematic Darín, they both provide great leads to look at and strong performances especially when playing alongside each other. They are convincing as a couple, and there are some scenes that are very tender. One that comes to mind is the scene where they are taking bets on how many cars will jump the red lights they can see from the cafe, a moment that also builds the truth behind the story, the fact that so many cars do jump the lights and that it's expected, the numbers they mention are frightening. However the purpose of the scene is to start to build that closeness, to show that Sosa has broken through to Luján, and it works beautifully. This and a few other moments had me giving a wry and warm smile to their relationship.

The filming is always close and personal, bringing us right into these people's lives and their decisions, it's an effective method that keeps the cameras on our characters for as much as possible of the film and helps us to engage with them.

It's particularly effective during those closing scenes when the thriller really has come to the delivery point. The way the in car scenes are filmed keeps us as a passenger, as a witness, as actually being there, and looking back on the rest of the film it's how the camera has felt from the beginning, that we're really in there with the characters.

Overall.pngThe performances from the two leading actors are strong, characters interesting, and the film has a lot to tell us. While the final delivery may not be as strong as some thrillers, the story of how the characters get to the final act is where it all happens and is the main draw. The ending does provide some excitement and plenty of surprise, even if I did feel that ultimately I was left hanging as to the future of the two characters.

Carancho is a strong dramatic story that gives an insight into a frightening aspect of life in Argentina as well as bringing us two engaging characters and a growing relationship that you so easily get involved with. It's a very good thriller, perhaps not as strong as The Secret in Their Eyes, but definitely worthy of a viewing.

Official Site
Filmstalker Glasgow Film Festival 2011 page
UK IMDB Film Details
Reserve Carancho on LOVEFiLM
Buy Carancho on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com



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