Skip to main content

Review: No

Over the course of history, some dictators have found themselves made into the antagonists in many a film. Some dictators just fade away into the ether after they are ousted. Augusto Pinochet is one of those men whose evils have gone relatively undocumented. Pinochet was a terrible man, he ranks right up there with Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini as one of history's greatest monsters.

In 1988, military dictator Augusto Pinochet calls for a referendum to decide whether he remain permanently in power. Opposition leaders, sensing an opportunity to give the people their freedom again, handpick a hotshot advertising executive, in the form of René Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), to head their campaign against the dictator.

Really, the plot for No could loosely be summed up as re-imagining the plot of Argo with the staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce leading the charge.

Getting an ad campaign off the ground will not be easy. Resources are limited and Pinochet's men keep René's team under constant scrutiny. Eventually, Saavedra and his team conceive of bold advertisements in hopes of winning the election and their freedom from oppression. The spots are not what you would think of at first: mimes, dancing, rainbows, and the message is capped by telling countrymen “Chile, happiness is coming!”

René doesn't take the campaign because of personal political beliefs, he does it for the challenge. The rebellion is better captured by his father or Veronica (Antonia Zegers), an activist with eyes toward a democratic future. Not just her future, but the future of her son with René as well.

At times, René's apathy is a little off-putting. Bernal's portrayal of the man could not be confused with a politically correct icon of a movie about rebellion. One imagines that if he were not being paid for these ads, he may not have done them at all. His inaction is at its worst during a scene where René stands by when Veronica, the mother of his son, is viciously beaten by police officers.

René recoiling from the violence is less a question of his cowardice and a larger symbol of the systemic fear throughout Chile. With a wave of Pinochet's hand, you could disappear forever.

Pablo Larrain captures the conflict with U-matic cameras to give an authentic feel for the time period, but don't confuse this with documentary realism. Larrain takes liberties with the material, but none that feel blatantly false. What Larrain creates in doing so is picture that sells.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…