A man in a dimly lit cell uses a lighter to sharpen his toothbrush. He then stands over the tin sink and professionally slashes his wrists. Hard cut and a new prisoner is moving into this, now empty cell. This hard-hitting opening scene announces a stunning masterpiece. Celda 211 AKA Cell 2011 is a highly underrated Spanish thriller and one of the best prison movies I have ever seen. I’ve been really lucky in recent weeks as I first stumbled upon Retroactive and now this movie. Starring Luis Tossar, whom you might remember from another great Spanish movie Sleep Tight, this is a real-time flow movie.
Events will be unfolding in real time which makes the pacing feel much faster than it actually is. Once the action kicks off with a strong gut punch, it won’t stop ’till the end. Malamadre is one tough son of a bitch. At this point, I should tell you that Celda 211 is based on a novel of the same name written by Francisco Pérez Gandul. Under the masterful direction of talented young director Daniel Monzón, this novel came to life with style. The character development is simply sublime offering authentic persons who feel like they’re based on real people.
There are no pretty boys or incredibly muscular tough guys, just ordinary people pushed to the limit. And let me tell you more about the setting. Celda 211 was shot in a real Concordat Prison located in Zamora, Spain. The prison wasn’t operational since the late eighties so the production team was working on it for quite some time to make it seem real. So, this is a movie with real characters in a real prison. All you needed now is a good story and Celda 211 doesn’t have a good story, it has a great one. Something you would expect from a movie based on a novel.
Juan Oliver is a young guy eager to start his new job as a prison officer. He comes in to work a day early, to get a feel of the place. And Juan will get a feel of this place alright.
I’ve just deleted a couple of sentences from this already short summary because I don’t want to spoil anything. Do not watch the trailer, do not go to the IMDb page, and in fact, do not read this movie recommendation anymore, just go watch this fucking movie. In case you’re still reading, I want to point out something about the plot of this movie. Celda 211 follows a young guard who’s about to start working in prison just as the HBO’s 1994 masterpiece Against The Wall. That movie is actually based on real events that you should read about only after you’ve seen the movie.
Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Celda 211 AKA Cell 211, check out our selection of Prison Movies. I know that most of them are American movies, but you’ll surely find a couple of European ones. They offer much grittier and atmospheric tales from the inside like the French prison movie A Prophet.
Director: Daniel Monzón
Writers: Jorge Guerricaechevarría, Daniel Monzón, Francisco Pérez Gandul
Cast: Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann, Carlos Bardem, Marta Etura, Antonio Resines, Manuel Morón
Fun Facts: Celda 211 won eight Goya Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Luis Tosar) and Best Adapted Screenplay.