An energetic and tense thriller with a real-time feel that keeps you absorbed.
Synopsis: Dani has dedicated the last few years of his life to taking care of his sick father. After his father passes away, he decides it’s time to get his own life back on track and buys a round-the-world ticket. But before his journey can get underway, he meets Mila, a young girl who is as attractive and sensual as she is disturbed and unstable. What starts out as a night of adventure quickly turns into a living nightmare, taking Dani to extremes he could never have imagined…
Cross The Line (also released as No Matarás) is a film focused on how quickly things can undergo near-seismic changes. From the first moments, we see Dani (Mario Casas) leave his ailing father’s bedside to buy cigarettes. The camera sticks right by him, taking that journey as he remains absorbed in the music in his earphones. By the time his short errand is complete, he returns to the room and finds his father has passed away. The event functions as both the start of a grieving process and an end to the long-standing responsibility. As part of the freedom from that responsibility he books a trip, but the journey he is about to take is far more eventful than any travel.
When Dani first encounters Mila (Milena Smit) she asks him to pay for two burgers, having been stood up and now under pressure to pay the bill. He obliges, thinking the encounter is strange, but certainly a one-off and writes it off as a good deed. Mila, however, has other ideas and is waiting outside to apologise and offer repayment. Their meeting kickstarts a series of events that escalate over the course of the film.
Casas’ performance is the glue that holds this energetic but occasionally thin thriller together. Any time the narrative flags a little, the camera closing in on his expressions is capable of snapping you back into it. It is a powerful advantage that the film sensibly exploits throughout the runtime. Sometimes, there really is nothing better than allowing a performer to demand the full attention of the audience and offer complex emotions, filling the space. Melina Smit as Mila also offers a captivating presence and their early chemistry also keeps you invested as the pair interact and she seems to guide Dani into his new life, free of duty and care.
As in the first scene, music plays a key role throughout the film, sometimes even becoming too intrusive and turning scenes into snippets from music videos to some extent. As the very dark farce continues, this dissipates somewhat, allowing the energy to increase and settle into the physicality as much as the early soul-searching and flirtations. The film knows exactly when to pause for breath, confronting the viewer as to what options Dani has available at each turn before sending him into another tense sequence. These pauses become all the more important as Dani’s choices become less palatable and more extreme.
On a technical and performance level, this is solid, but there are times where the events of the film feel a little thin. The focus on one key event that other issues spring from keeps everything cohesive, but also limits it to some degree. From my perspective, the inciting event doesn’t quite gel convincingly so the following chaos fell a little flat as it seems such a departure from the way the character is initially set out. The film has to rely on this life-changing incident for the rest of the film’s stakes but doesn’t quite earn it. This is offset somewhat by the pace of the film, escalating in terms of action and threat in what feels close to real-time. It allows you to see the toll everything takes on Dani and captures that sense of transformation.
A thriller that has a compelling lead and a good grasp of action, even if it is lacking in some depth.
3 out of 5 stars
Cross The Line plays as part of Grimmfest Easter on Friday April 15th at 6.10pm. Please see the Grimmfest schedule for more information and tickets.