11.10.2009

Tres Días/Before the Fall (2008): Surprisingly Great



Don’t you just love going into a movie blind, not having any preconceived notions, and then being pleasantly surprised?

After arriving early for The Fourth Kind screening at Screamfest, we decided to purchase tickets for Tres Días, which is also titled Before the Fall (I’m not lame and mistranslating the Spanish title). Having heard nothing about the film, we watched a trailer earlier that day. It looked like a visceral, end-of-the-world film that had something else going on, but you couldn’t quite tell from the trailer. All I knew is that a meteorite was colliding with earth in 72 hours. Was there something supernatural going on? Were aliens responsible for the meteor? Is there a conspiracy unfolding at the hands of the government? Or is it simply an apocalyptic movie?


We follow Alejandro (Ale), an everyday laborer with nothing much to live for, as he discovers that the world will be ending in three days. He encounters a variety of people with different reactions to the dooming news: suicide, panic, depression, shock, and denial.  Ale’s mother appears to act irrationally, ignoring the apocalyptic fate of the world and focusing on an escaped prisoner that might harm her grandchildren. Ale would rather spend his last days drinking beer, sleeping in, and listening to music than worry about the lives of children that will be dead in a couple days anyway.


At this point, you might be wondering: how is this a horror film? Tres Días is a unique film that is difficult to place in any singular genre, other than the end-of-the-world category. The first half of the film is primarily straight drama with a blend of science fiction, but by the end…it is understood why it is playing at Screamfest, as the horror elements slowly unfold. I’d hate to divulge too much about the plot of the film. It turns away from the global cataclysmic scale and focuses on intimate events occurring within the framework of humanity’s last days on earth. The film requires patience and openness, but it is a vastly rewarding experience.


I was most impressed by the heavy thematic elements of Tres Días. Through the character development of Ale, the primary message of the film emerges: Your actions always matter. The film takes the ends versus means argument to a new level, showing that the results may be uncontrollable but each decision must be made moment to moment. What is wonderful about this story is that the audience transforms along with Ale. At first, you agree with him. Why bother? The world is ending, so who cares what happens in the next 72 hours? Eventually, Ale realizes that the preciousness of life is still important and as a viewer, you find yourself rooting for Ale to save the lives of people that will die anyway.


Garnering the most awards at Screamfest, Tres Días is a very accomplished piece of filmmaking. Winning Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Editing, the Spanish movie is a great example of cinematic skills used to further the story, characters, and themes. Shot in an over-exposed, gritty fashion, it is one of the best executions of this style I have seen a while. All of the filmmakers are working together to create a wonderful flow of emotions through visual design, blending handheld, stationary, and dolly shots with ease. It is a credit to the cinematographer, director, and editor that the seamless visuals work so well concurrently.  The performances are also incredible—subtle when they need to be and heart-wrenching when it counts. Víctor Clavijo, who plays the lead, carries the film well. He demonstrates great range, making us laugh in quiet moments and helping us through the shift in circumstances through a realistic portrayal of a changed man. I am excited to see more work from director F. Javier Gutíerrez, as he’s off to a great start.

The film has been released on DVD and is available through Netflix. I encourage you to check it out. Although it is slow and involved, it is well worth the attention. It may not be a straight horror film by conventional standards, but it is a unique viewing experience and incredibly well made.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great review. I am going to hurry over to Netflix and get it in my que before everyone else reads this review. :)

    Cheers!

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  2. This one has been on my radar for a little bit. I've been so eager to see it, especially since I devour all post-apocalypse themed films and books. The screen shots look amazing! Really glad you got to check this out. I hope it comes around for one of our handful of upcoming film festivals here in Boston.

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  3. This movie was an extreme treat to see. I am glad i saw it on the big screen. You are right about the over all theme, which was simple but at the same time one of the most complex human dilemmas. Action and non action always are. Everything is solid in this film and I think the director will be going places soon.

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  4. Like the movie critic Kevin Thomas said in his review...'A work of exemplary craftsmanship, crisp and forthright yet modulated by subtle nuances, Before the Falls ranks high among the year's films'. Thanks for the great review.

    PS: I recommend you another spanish horror movie...[Rec]...is one of the best horror movies I've watched so far.

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