• La Isla Minima / Marshland (2014) - Moody thriller with stunning landscapes, an intriguing mixture of genres and authentic characters - 9/10 (26/07/17)

    La Isla Minima / Marshland (2014)

    La Isla Minima, also known as Marshland, is a Spanish thriller that has won ten Goya Awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. For once, this film truly deserves the praise it got. The story revolves around the mysterious disappearance of two teenage girls in the desolate countryside deep in Spain's south. Two homicide detectives need to work together and soon uncover more mysterious disappearances related to their case.

    There are numerous elements that make Marshland an outstanding movie. One element are definitely the landscapes and locations. The southern marshland looks desolate and raw as one can discover both beauty and despair in such a place. The movie takes us into shady bars, into spare hotel rooms, on dusty roads and into numerous abandoned and isolated buildings. Most characters don't really like to live in this place which has an impact on the gloomy atmosphere of this movie.

    A key element behind this movie's success are its two charismatic main characters. Pedro Suarez is a young, motivated and ambitious homicide detective who is openly critical of Spain's past during the Franco dictatorship. His critical and direct attitude helps him to solve his cases but it also creates conflicts with his more conservative superiors which is the reason why he got sent away from the Spanish capital to the marshland. On the other side, Juan Robles seems to be a calm and sociable homicide detective who doesn't question his superiors and who gets along with local people which helps him to get more information than his colleague because people trust him and don't only see him as police officer. On the other side, he can get quite brutal and emotional at times and seems to have a shady past as well as a dark future.

    Another convincing element of this movie is its mixture of genres. Even though it is mainly a thriller and focuses on a story with a few gruesome twists, this movie is also the portrait of a country that is going through important changes. The movie takes places in the early eighties, just a few years after the end of the brutal Franco dictatorship. Some characters desire to embrace democracy, move on and open the country towards the world. Others are still stuck in the old system and use bribes, corruption and violence to become or remain influential. Some characters seem to be lost between both worlds as they face demons from the past but are also afraid of what lies ahead. This movie is an authentic drama, historical portrait and character study all at once. It's also a road movie as the main characters walk, drive or take the boat to investigate their case in the marshland numerous times.

    To keep it short, Marshland is a very convincing thriller that stands out thanks to a coherent yet diversified mixture of genres, two very interesting and profound main characters portrayed by the excellent actors Raul Arevalo and Javier Gutierrez and atmospheric, charismatic and unique landscapes and locations. La Isla Minima is one of the very best thrillers in recent memory and I would definitely recommend it and watch it again myself.

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