July 5, 2011

Before the Fall (2008)

(AKA Tres días)

"A meteorite will destroy the world in three days. For Ale (Victor Clavijo), that means 72 hours of alone time, getting as drunk as possible. But when a mysterious drifter (Eduard Fernández) appears, the self-serving Ale faces a more immediate danger. Now, he finds himself protecting his mother (Mariana Cordero) and his brother's children from his fellow man in humanity's final hours."

If you've read any of my other posts about Spanish movies, you'll already know that I really hate the clichéd hot, dusty, sweaty and hairy look which gets overused in these often low-budget productions. For some inexplicable reason, however, this all seems to work favourably in the case of "Tres días".

Possibly the look of the film adds some gritty realism to what could otherwise be dismissed as yet another far-fetched Twilight Zone-esque sci-fi thriller but I still haven't made my mind up about that. The location, which seems strangely isolated from the rest of the world, is a much bigger factor although the somewhat ambitious fusing of a coming apocalypse with a slasher is what really sets this apart.

As far as I could tell, the acting is all pretty decent. I'm basing this on reading the subtitles and matching the words to the expressions of the actors. I'm not a Spanish speaker so I have no idea what the delivery of the lines would really sound like to a native. Everyone involved certainly looked right (not too handsome, not too ugly) which made me think that "Tres días" was also aiming for realistic dialogue in keeping with everything else. When you are dealing with foreign language movies, it's impossible to tell if dialects match up or if any of the actors are putting on accents unless you are from that country yourself.

The area of Andalucía, in southern Spain where this was filmed, appears to be quite rural. I got the feeling that it's supposed to be a more agricultural than industrial community and slightly more behind the times technologically than other parts of Spain, but I really don't know for sure or if this was just artistic licence. Some reviews which I've scanned mention that everyone seems to have black and white television sets, but I think that has more to do with the colour palette used for the film than anything else. There is no reason for them to be that technologically backward as it's Spain we are dealing with here, after all, and not some impoverished third-world country. I'm also slightly suspicious about the use of aerials for terrestrial televisions used in this as I'm sure that Spain has embraced digital technology. It's as much of a plot device as cell phones not working in Hollywood horror movies.

If you watch "Tres días" too critically, there are quite a few derivative contrivances used to advance the story and a couple which stretch credibility a little bit too much. Amusingly some of these are even addressed within the dialogue, but I don't think that the joins are too obvious.

With an original title of "Three Days", you know where this story is going from the very beginning and it's not going to have a happy ending. If you really think about it though, it's just a microcosm of life anyway. None of us actually get off this planet alive so it's all about making the most of the time you have left. Yes, the film is thought provoking on that level and is also a lot more entertaining by keeping the unavoidable disaster very much in the background. You know it's there all the time but there are still routine and more immediate problems to be dealt with by this small group of characters.

"Tres días" has some horrific moments, but as it's not strictly a horror movie, there isn't anything too extreme. The whole planet being destroyed by a meteor five times the size of the one which wiped out the dinosaurs is actually quite extreme but the focus of the story isn't on effects like the ones in Hollywood action adventures such as "2012" from a couple of years ago. There are, obviously, still some special effects used and they are are very well done.

Personally, and subjectively, I really enjoyed "Tres días", but as a weird hybrid of at least three other genres of movie other than pure horror, it may not be for everyone. The pace is a little bit slow at first and it takes nearly two-thirds of the film before the serial killer arrives on the scene. As much as I enjoyed it, I could just as easily tear it all apart for certain improbabilities and unrealistic responses too.

I'm rating "Tres días" as "Just Average" although it's a high average. There isn't a lot here that you haven't already seen before, but it is still a beautifully made film with a much wider appeal than simply to sci-fi/horror genre fans. The camerawork is very good to the point where it should really be described as true cinematography. Many of the frames would make good standalone photographs which is how, I believe, most people would measure this accomplishment. It's certainly rewatchable too as I managed to watch it three times in succession, and I seldom do that with anything.

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