"A detective searches for the body of a femme fatale which has gone missing from a morgue."
If you're a regular follower of my Twitter feed or Facebook page, you'll know that I've been raving about this thriller intermittently ever since I first heard about it. Not only am I an enthusiastic ogler of Belén Rueda, but I naively expected "The Body" to get a theatrical release.
Unfortunately, after only playing at a few festivals, "The Body" has gone straight-to-DVD (and Blu-ray) in the UK, and there's still no news of any US release. This is a bit of a disappointment, but it's only to be expected in a country where envious eyes are probably drawing up their plans for a remake and holding off distribution for as long as possible. Such shenanigans surrounded "[REC]", "Let the Right One In" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", so I have every reason to be cynical. Also, since this movie is already so American in style, you just have to laugh at the irony of anyone wanting to remake it in the first place, but I'm sure it'll happen eventually.
"The Body", you see, is a genuine homage to classic film noir without falling into the neo-noir trap. It's a contemporary version of Agatha Christie-style thrillers for the most part with twist on top of twist. It also owes a great deal to Chan-wook Park's "Vengeance Trilogy" stylistically, but only insofar as Park's movies also homage better pulp mysteries of the past. "The Body" is as beautifully filmed but less taxing on the senses as, essentially, it's an easy to follow "popcorn flick" dressed up to look like more than it really is. That is until, of course, everything is revealed at the end.
Without giving away the plot too much, all I can tell you is that "The Body" is mainly a police investigation which takes place over one rainy night with flashbacks and some hypothetical scenes of events which may not have happened. Structurally, it's reminiscent of "Endless Night" (1972) and "Basic Instinct" (1992) but not without a couple of healthy dollops of "Sunset Blvd." (1950) mixed in. Thus, noir genre fans should feel right at home among the formulas. One very gory make-up effect will please horror fans too.
|Belén Rueda and Hugo Silva.|
While some people might say that "The Body" is clichéd, generic, and a little bit too slick for its own good, the perfect pacing, atmosphere, and performances turn it into a very classy piece of storytelling. There's maybe not quite enough depth to the characterisation to cause empathy, but you could say that about "Double Indemnity" (1944) or any of the Bogart vehicles. Two-dimensional characterisation is crucial for the various reveals in such thrillers anyway. Outside of Mankiewicz or Hitchcock, there's never been much time devoted to character driven mysteries which actually work, and writer/director Oriol Paulo hasn't taken that route with "The Body" either.
The focus is on Hugo Silva, who as Álex Ulloa is trapped like a fly skewered on a pin, and José Coronado as the tenacious detective Jaime Peña who questions him. Both are well cast in their roles although there are moments when it's hard to believe that bearded and bespectacled Hugo Silva would have enticed not one but two beautiful women into his bed. With much sport made of Belén Rueda's age along the way, Álex Ulloa is immediately defined as a gold digger who has bitten off more than he can chew this time, and he's not a likeable character.
José Coronado, on the other hand, doesn't develop any further than being a typical cop haunted by his own "Lost Lenore" tragedy. He certainly looks the part, and even the most casual glance at his previous TV and film credits indicate that he's been typecast here. In case you're wondering, a lead role in "R.I.S. Científica" (a one-season Spanish version of C.S.I.) is his most recent claim to fame. There's a little bit more to detective Jaime Peña than meets the eye, but you'll have to find out what that is by watching this movie yourself. Unlike some over-privileged, douchebag movie reviewers, I'm not going to give away the details.
Sadly, Belén Rueda doesn't get nearly as much screen time as she did in "The Orphanage" (2007) or "Julia's Eyes" (2010)—both of which are credited to the producers of this movie—but she still has a very important part to play even as a corpse. That bit I can give away because it's in the synopsis. However, as a compensation for the lack of Belén Rueda's MILFy goodness, Aura Garrido provides a decent amount of eyecandy as Álex's girlfriend Carla. Once again, there's more to her than just a pretty face.
|Aura Garrido as Carla.|
The supporting players are all top notch Spanish TV actors from various dramas which haven't travelled. Some stand out more than others including fierce-looking Patrícia Bargalló as Agent Norma who deserved to have a bigger part. Trust me, you'll notice her because she looks like Noomi Rapace from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". I'm sure it's meant to be an intentional in-joke as there are several other visual homages to that movie. For even more fun, write down a list of as many famous thrillers as you can remember before watching "The Body" and tick off all the lines of dialogue that you've heard before.
Ultimately, "The Body" is a noir-geek's paradise for identifying all the "borrowings", but that's exactly what it's meant to be to some extent. Despite its overall serious tone, and one "gross-out" moment, the ending is so contrived that you know little more was intended than a display of Oriol Paulo's erudition and some very dark humour. Make no mistake, "The Body" is not a comedy—no jokes are cracked, and nobody except Belén Rueda laughs—but that doesn't stop it being witty for other reasons. Whereas some thrillers allow the journey to become more important than the destination (or vice versa), "The Body" is pleasing throughout.
Even if you're not a big fan of mysteries and thrillers, "The Body" is easily the best movie you will see this year.
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