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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Movie Review: Before The Fall

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Woke up this morning, got myself a gun. Photo courtesy the great people behind Before The Fall.

When the sign reads 'Alt Cinema', you have to step into the theatre knowing that whatever you're about to see is gonna be a real crapshoot. Often times without the shooting. But every once in a while, mixed in with the kabuki juggling animated dragon silent films and anything by Uwe Bolle, you start to realize that Alternative Cinema doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Films like the F. Javier Gutierrez's Before The Fall go to great lengths to break out of the preconceived notions such cinema generalizations strive for. And, as it so happens, this film largely succeeds. With its imminent-apocalypse backdrop and its strong, dangerous editing, Before The Fall should be a welcome addition to artsy fartsy rental house, and would certainly make a good addition to your Netflix queue.

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Making its US premiere at the Los Angeles AFI festival based largely on the strength of Gutierrez's 2001 widely-loved short film Brasil, Before The Fall is a strong addition to the growing Spanish filmmaking repertoire. Showcasing the often harsh Andalusian landscape, and the even more weathered inhabitants, the film transgresses into multiple elements and themes at once. Primarily a thriller with a decidedly sci-fi bent, the undertones of pure Western -style decay and outright action can't be denied. The mix is a sweaty, jarring, and only slightly clunky film you should like, if not take too seriously.

As an unstoppable meteorite prepares to pummel earth in three days, global panic sets in. Between prayers, infanticide, and the scrambled news reports that showcase the global wreckage, slacker protagonist Ale sees no way out, contenting himself with some cold beers and lots of sleep. But when the prison systems begin to break down, Ale's mother thrusts more responsibility on him than ever before: he must protect his brother's children from the escaped murderer who has sworn revenge on the whole family. A bit over the top? Perhaps, but so is the box office gross for Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Soon, it becomes apparent that Ale must do all that he can, on his own, to protect the children from unknown and potentially supernatural forces, including the appearance of a questionable stranger with an agenda of his own. Faced with unknowable decisions and the fate of four young children, Ale must use his, strengths, and fears to confront the true enemy.

The careful selection of shots by Gutierrez, coupled with the stark editing mentioned above, often combine to make Before The Fall a spooky thriller of chilling proportions. Unfortunately, when the action sequences finally come, you may find yourself a bit underwhelmed; however, this slight deflation is generally just the result of a stellar setup earlier in the film. As for the actors themselves, I couldn't understand a single thing they were saying! (Joking aside, the film IS in Spanish). However, their roles were convincing enough, especially Juan Galván as Nico, the runty and impatient youngest child, who finds himself at the heart of the film's climax. There are also a few loosely-written ends that could use a nip or tuck, but overall the film overcomes these deficiencies to do what it set out to do: entertain.

With Antonio Banderas as the executive producer, it is no wonder that Before The Fall maintains a higher level of performance (and wider audience) than most other foreign films, especially those in the Alt Cinema category. It doesn't hurt that Gutierrez's feature film debut is a superbly-shot and honestly dramatic film. Thought-provoking? Not really. But don't let that scare you, cine-buffs; the Alt Cinema title still applies. Just barely.