Vancouver International Film Festival Round Three – Vampires, Facebook, and a Spanish Prison

So I decided to take a small break from the Vancouver International Film Festival. Unfortunately, that break consisted of me watching more movies. First movie here is another film fest offering, followed by some more mainstream fare.

Cell 211. Directed by Daniel Morazon

Cell 211 is one of those high concept movies where the initial idea behind the film is so effective that you can’t believe nobody has done this before. It’s the story of newlywed Juan Oliver, who gets caught in a brutal prison riot on his very first day as a prison guard. In order to survive, Oliver pretends to be an inmate, and does his best to quell the riot from the inside. It’s a simple story, but director Daniel Morazon turns it into a complex potboiler, full of political intrigue, human drama, and a strong moral lesson about the concept of basic human dignity. There’s also some fantastic acting from this Spanish cast. Highly recommended.

Rating: A​ler

Let Me In. Directed by Matt Reeves.

There’s two stories here. One is the plot of the movie: A lonely young boy in New Mexico befriends a new arrival to his apartment complex around the same time that a series of brutal murders terrify his town. The other is the story of where this movie came from. It’s a remake of a recent Swedish film called Let The Right One In, which is based on a Swedish novel called Let Me In. In the few years since it’s release, it’s stature as a landmark of modern genre film making has only increased, and it’s widely considered one of the great genre movies of the past decade or so. It’s also one of the greatest vampire movies ever made. So in short, Matt Reeves had his work cut out for him, on what was essentially the cinema version of the Kobayshi Maru. If you change the original too much to adapt to western audiences, you risk losing what made the original special in the first place. If you keep to the original script, you risk losing your mainstream audience.

Reeves tries to have his cake and eat it too, and while he’s made a very credible genre piece, the changes he’s made won’t be enough for western audiences. Although I found it very difficult to be objective regarding this considering my love of the original source material, I have to admit that my respect for Matt Reeves has grown by leaps and bounds after watching this. His skill as a storyteller seems to be growing exponentially. That’s not to say this is perfect. While he simplifies the story and clears up some of the ambiguities that were in the original, he loses some of the subtlety that made the original so special. In the original, the vampire Eli was portrayed as a manipulative, slightly abusive character, whose sole concern was feeding her dark urges. In this newer version, Chloe Moretz’s version of the character is portrayed as a more tragic, more sympathetic character. A small change? Perhaps. But it’s enough to radically alter the viewer’s perceptions of the main relationship in the film. For the better? Again, perhaps.

 I think that if I wasn’t so familiar with the original Swedish film, I’d like this more than I did. A LOT more. The main thing this film succeeded in doing was convincing me that Matt Reeves is a major talent on the rise. Rating: B+

The Social Network. Directed by David Fincher.

The big question on a lot of people’s minds has been: Why would David Fincher (Zodiac David Fincher. Seven David Fincher. Fight Club David Fincher) choose to make a movie about the origins of Facebook? We get the answer within 5 minutes of the film’s opening: It’s the script. For this film, Aaron Sorkin has crafted some of the wittiest, biting dialogue you’ll see in a cinema this year.

That’s it. It’s the main reason to watch this film, and Fincher realizes it. He’s picked a solid cast here, but he understands that the real star here is Aaron Sorkin, and he makes sure that the script gets plenty of opportunities to shine. The plot itself is unremarkable: Smart unlikeable schmuck (played ably though with very little flair by the poor man’s Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg) creates an online social network that changes the world. In doing so, he runs roughshod over his friends and colleagues, alienating every person who ever liked him, and getting his pants sued off him in the process. Social Network is a well done, entertaining, mainstream film, and while you’re not going to get anything particularly groundbreaking here, you’ll definitely feel as if your money was well spent.

Rating: B+​17835

(originally posted at


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