El NiñoLondon Film Festival 2014
Thursday 9th October, 9pm – Vue West End
Saturday 11th October, 3.15pm – Ciné Lumière
El Niño is a tense, complex and gripping thriller from Spanish director Daniel Monzon.
We also meet Niño (Jesus Castro), a young boat builder, and his friend Compi (Jesus Carroza). They are looking to make some fast money and so get involved with Halil (Saed Chatiby), a Moroccan-born Spanish immigrant who is a low-level lackey for the smugglers. Using Halil’s Moroccan connections, and Niño’s skill on the water, the three of them start their own small-scale smuggling operation. But they soon find themselves playing a dangerous game with the real hardened criminals of the trafficking world, and the police, as Niño’s expert driving brings him to the attention of Jesus.
It’s stormed the box office in Spain and it’s not hard to see why. There’s some terrific action scenes, all filmed without the aid of CGI – jet skis, speedboats, car chases, and several superb helicopter sequences – real boy’s-own stuff. But it’s intelligently shot and delivered and there’s a refreshingly gritty realism, and lack of Michael Bay-style bombast to the proceedings. And when Jesus takes to tailing the Englishman around the Gibraltar, snapping pictures while posing as a Spanish tourist, there’s a palpable tension and menace to the stark and economical style in which it’s shot.
The plot is complex, twisting and turning back and forth before its conclusion – but it’s neatly handled and always easy to follow, as Jesus’ suspicion and paranoia about a mole in the department begins to grow. Having said that, there are plot holes the size of the rock of Gibraltar in some of the set-ups.
There’s also a rather soupy love story thrown in, as Niño falls in love with Halil’s sister Amina (Mariam Bachir), who’s still scraping a living in Morocco and yearns to flee to Spain for the promise of a better life. She’s their Moroccan supplier, and although the two of them are likable characters, it’s ultimately fairly tepid stuff, and you long for the excitement and intensity found elsewhere.
Some of the dialogue is pretty risible, and at 136 minutes it’s overly long, but overall, it’s an intelligent, slick, and hugely enjoyable slice of action.
El Niño is released in the UK on 9th October 2014.
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Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for El Niño here: