Below Zero (Action, Crime, Thriller) (2021)
Director: Lluís Quílez
Writer: Lluís Quílez, Fernando Navarro
Stars: Javier Gutiérrez, Isak Férriz, Luis Callejo, Florin Opritescu
What was supposed to be a routine prison transfer goes horribly wrong when the transfer vehicle gets assaulted, and the officers have to deal with both the inmates and an unknown external threat.
With few characters and a single limited location for most of the film, ‘’Below Zero’’ is effectively controlled by director Lluís Quílez. The viewers’ attention is handily guided towards the prison truck with the help of the cold, unforgiving scenery around it. That atmosphere serves its purpose giving plenty of room for effective writing and an immersive plot.
The initial officers introduced aren’t exactly the most likeable characters, but they leave a lot of room for viewer impression upon them. The interactions between Martín (Javier Gutiérrez) and Montesinos (Isak Férriz) are broken up by the prisoners’ attitudes, making sly remarks to try and get under the skin of their detainers. Both the prisoners’ attitudes and thorough searches before being transferred to the truck are by far the most accurate depiction of it that I’ve seen in film.
From the point everyone is loaded onto the truck to the unavoidable foray with the threatening marksman, Lluís Quílez’s control over the scenes is excellent, using the desolate road and limited vision to build a lot of tension in a short time. The undefined character of Martín gives even more perspective and focus to the scenes. As things start going to hell in a handbasket and Martín desperately tries to contact his colleagues and headquarters, the story unwinds, and an impeccable introduction sets the atmosphere and theme in stone.
Without many confusing angles or winding plot twists, ‘’Below Zero’’ is immensely easy to follow; the director made a clear decision to create an enjoyable but easily graspable storyline. With the great set-up and accuracy to real-life shown with preparing the inmates, the film had a lot going for it. However, when the action gets going, there are too many instances of inexplicable creative decisions. The main character Martín gets shot after being hailed with over a dozen bullets, all the heavy-duty trucks tires get changed without a crank in sight, and several other oversights for the sake of the dramatic plot, perhaps the worst infraction is when the characters spend minutes submerged in a frozen lake without any real risk of hypothermia. The grounded and engaging turns to overly dramatic and implausible ruining most of the feature. It’s a shame to see something promising like this get watered down in the way it does after the first act.
The convenient liberties taken ruin this promising Spanish Netflix feature, but despite the negatives, Lluís Quílez still seems like a director to look out for ‘’Below Zero’’ being his second full-length film.
Below seven is luckily the lowest grade I can give this film.