the bar | alex de la iglesia | jorge guerricaechevarria | blanca suarez | mario casas | carmen machi | contained | military | infection | comedy | thriller | spain | argentina | secun de la rosa | jaime ordonez | terele pavez | joaquin climent | alejandro awada
Film: The Bar (El bar)
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Writer: Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Álex de la Iglesia
Starring: Blanca Suárez, Mario Casas and Carmen Machi
I remember hearing about this movie when it was making its festival rounds. I didn’t realize that it was co-written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia. He’s a director that I’ve seen two of his films and really liked both of them. He brings such an interesting feel to his characters and his movies. I decided to check this out for my podcast when I used a randomizer and this number came up. The synopsis is in bustling downtown Madrid, a loud gunshot and two mysterious deaths trap a motley assortment of common urbanites in a decrepit central bar, while paranoia and suspicion force the terrified regulars to turn on each other.
We start on the busy streets of Madrid. At first we’re following Elena (Blanca Suárez) as she talks to her friend over the phone. She has a date at a fancy hotel/bar. The camera then shifts to show us Trini (Carmen Machi) who is buying fruit, but tells the man to put it on her tab. There’s also Sergio (Alejandro Awada) who is homeless. We shift between these three until they all converge at a bar.
It is run by Amparo (Terele Pávez) and her employee is Sátur (Secun de la Rosa). Inside is Israel (Jaime Ordóñez) who I believe is the police officer and there’s a business man who is Andrés (Joaquín Climent). There’s also a hipster who’s on his phone while listening to music on headphones, Nacho (Mario Casas). The three we met in the street come into this place along with three other men. One of them goes into the bathroom without buying anything, bothering Amparo in the process.
One man goes to leave and is immediately shot in the head. This freaks out those in the bar who heard it and they see the mass panic outside. Another guy goes to check it out and he’s shot as well. The group panics inside, but order is brought back. That’s when they decide to turn on the television to the news, but there’s no report of what happened. It gets weird when the bodies are removed, including the blood, but no one saw it happen. When the news finally has a report, it’s claiming there’s a fire downtown and they’ve blocked off the area. A crew shows up outside, setting tires on fire and the people inside think this is the cover up.
Everyone forgets about the man in the bathroom until they hear him yelling. The handle is shot off and he emerges. His veins are black and his eyes bulging. As he dies he tells them not to touch him. There are syringes found in the bathroom and they find his phone with him wearing a military outfit. Their fear becomes that he was infected with something that is now spread to them. They can’t get a signal on their phones and reach anyone. The isolation is breeding paranoia of who they can trust and if they’re infected. This causes a divide with half being set to the cellar, where they’re locked in.
Now something I’ve realized the more I’ve branched out in my horror watching, the more that I really dig movies that are more contained, especially in something like this where they can’t get out. What I find interesting though, there’s a lot left unexplained and the more that I think about it, the more that I start to form what I think could really be happening here. If you can do that as a movie, you have a fan in me for sure.
Here is the group of characters that we get that are diverse and their alliances are constantly changing. On top of that, we explore stereotypes that are just that. That really makes this even more interesting. Like we have Nacho, he’s a hipster so the men who take charge at first think he’s weak. It is reported over the news that this could be terrorism. Nacho is then acting funny and I’m not sure why. The men see it and they single him out, which brings Elena to his aid. As things progress, we see Nacho isn’t as weak as they thought and it is scary to Elena where she questions him.
Elena is an interesting character as well. She dresses very nice, but we see that despite how good looking she is, she actually has quite low self-esteem. She keeps going for the wrong guys and she puts on a front to protect herself. Similar, Trini comes off as uppity as she comes into this bar almost daily to play the slot machine that is there. There was a hint of something about her earlier, but we see that she ignores people like she does not because she finds herself to be better. It is more that she doesn’t like things about herself. Sátur is extremely nice, but he’s ignored a lot. This bothers him and he bottles up it as well.
There’s an interesting scene where the two tough guys who take charge to start off us. One of them is hiding something about him that would be considered deviant. I like this idea for him as he portrays that he’s ‘normal’ on the outside. There’s nothing wrong with his fetish, but being that’s what it is, he would be looked down on especially by men. On the other side, the police officer is an alcoholic who lost his wife and child as well as his job.
I needed to also talk about Sergio. He’s a homeless, alcoholic that Amparo has a soft spot for and tries to help him. He is constantly spouting out bible verses, which both amazes me to remember all of the ones that he does to the point where he can reference them as things are happening that fit, but also scares me. He does things that are going against the principles of being a Christian and I love the perversion of religion with that idea.
I’m going to have a spoiler section later on to delve more into the whole premise here, because I think I’ll have to go over things that could ruin the movie to do so. With that out of the way, the pacing I thought was fine, but it did have some issues. I think the runtime of 102 minutes is a bit long. I never necessarily got bored, but I do think that we get some things a bit repetitively that could have been trimmed to tighten this up. This is also considered a comedy, but Iglesia knows how to use that to his advantage. It never took me out of it or ruined the tension. I did like how it ended as well, especially the implications.
Since I’ve broken down all of the characters, I’ll briefly go over the acting. Casas was really good in his role and seeing the change that came over him worked for me. Suárez was another that I felt the same about. What we see in the beginning, how she looks and acts, to the character we get in the end are different and I thought that really worked. Awada was great as well. He’s crazy from the start, but seeing him take advantage of what is going on around him really makes this. It is believable as someone who has nothing, he’s used to doing what he has to survive. Machi, Pávez, Climent, Rosa, Ordóñez and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.
That takes me to the effects. There really weren’t a lot and I don’t think it needed them. I’m not sure if the gunshots that cause this event were done practically or CGI, but regardless it looked real. I think that it was done just far enough away to see it, but not to critique it too hard. Plus it happens so quickly. Other than that, the wounds and blood looked good. The look of the military man was creepy as well. They were reminiscent it of The Crazies. The cinematography was good and I had no issues with that.
Now with that said, after the movie ended I thought it was alright. I couldn’t write this until the next day as I was tired so I had time to reflect. I’m glad I did as my thoughts came up the more I thought about this. The contained horror aspect was really good. It drives the tension as distrust and paranoia grow. The acting helps to bring these diverse characters, which actually aren’t that different from each other, to life. Despite me thinking the running time is a bit long, I think that it still was enjoyable and never boring. The effects worked and it was shot just fine. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out, but it also didn’t hurt it for me. I thought it fit for what was needed. I’d have to say that I think this was a good movie and would recommend giving this a viewing. I will warn you, this is from Spain so I watched it in Spanish with subtitles on. If that’s an issue, I would avoid this, but if not and this sounds interesting then give it a go.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
We never actually figure out what is going on here, which I do think helps build the mystery as well. I was wondering if this would go supernatural or not, but nothing points to that. It does seem like there’s a cover up. Upon writing this, I believe what happened is the man that locks himself in the bathroom was being followed by the military. The government thinks that he’s infected with something so when the two men step outside, they’re killed. They block the communications out and come up with the cover story of a fire with the tires to create dark, black smoke. I really do wonder if the infection is contagious or not, as Elena used his phone so in theory, she would be spreading it like contagion as new patient zero. Seeing the group break down and not trusting each other as they fear what is happening as well as infection. What makes it work better is that we don’t know if there is actually an infection, but society would break down on this scale for sure and it is quite believable in that regard.