Film review

The Dancer Upstairs

Opens December 6, Cert 15, 124 mins

A noted theatrical director, John Malkovich makes his first foray behind the camera with this ambitious political thriller. Javier Bardem stars as Augustin Rejas, a State investigator assigned to track down the charismatic, Messiah-like leader of a group of violent—and imaginative—underground revolutionaries. The shadow of Costa-Gavras hangs over proceedings (his 1973 film State Of Siege even turns up as a plot device), which is not a bad shadow to be under. Malkovich and screenwriter Nicholas Shakespeare—adapting his own novel—bring complexity and intimacy to what could have been a routine thriller; the film becomes a close study of Rejas, exploring his marriage, his tentative relationship with ballet teacher Laura Morantes (from The Son's Room) and his feelings for the corrupt state that he serves. Bardem carries all this narrative baggage brilliantly, and his performance keeps the film afloat during a rather clunky first hour. Still, Malkovich stages some powerful set pieces, and brings the film to a close with physical and dramatic force. A debut that bodes well for the future.

Rating: 3 / 10


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