Marshland: Film Review
Cast: Javier Gutierrez, Raul Arevalo
Director: Alberto Rodriguez
Mixing the same horrific themes and locations as True Detective but eschewing the philosophical debate, Spanish thriller Marshland arrives with accolades ringing in its ears.
Already the recipient of 10 GOYA Awards, it's the 1980s story of two detectives Juan and Pedro, unwillingly paired together and both serving a penance of sorts for past sins. Called to a small Spanish village to investigate the disappearance of two girls, it soon becomes clear that their going missing covers a wider net of conspiracy than was first believed.
Rodriguez has crafted something dour, grim and atmospheric which makes the best of its moody locations, characters and situation.
Revelling in the fact this pair are outsiders from the outset to both the community they're investigating and even their own attitudes, there's certainly overtones of True Detective's MO - even down to Arevalo's outward similarity to McConaughey's look in the series - which prove hard to shake from the DNA of the thriller.
There are also moments of lucidity and writing which is spot on with its veracity, wringing the drops of horror from the situation.
When the duo find the girls, the local cops implore them to be the ones to tell the parents what has happened, given that they see them every day. It's a peeling back of the veneer and a peeking below the surface that's queasy to watch.
Visually, the film is a claustrophobic treat with Rodriguez making great fist of the marshlands locations, the 80s drained look and some aerial shots as transitioning from the scenes which seem like Google Maps or the pull backs from Grand Theft Auto V as it switches between characters. Every sequence is meticulously crafted, tightly executed and tautly directed. There's a sense of grim realism that permeates so much of the movie and leads to moments that are truly gripping.
But it's not without its faults - the final reveal of who's behind it all is muddily executed in the middle of a rain storm swamping the screen and hiding the unveiling, leading to some feeling ripped off. Equally, a side thread about Franco's army, a wage dispute between workers are jumbled and disjointed, feeling like they've been woven in and left a little under-developed and extraneous to the narrative.
Overall, Marshland brings together a sticky fear of dread throughout, thanks to a dour, grim atmosphere, dripping with unease and queasy revelations bubbling under a surface. Its ending is downbeat and troubling, a sign that atonement comes at a price and leaves you feeling unsettled - something which is well worth celebrating.