Cops investigate covered-up crimes in harrowing Spanish thriller….
Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen delivers the disturbing, pulse-pounding goods in his new Spanish thriller May God Save Us, in which two troubled detectives pursue a serial rapist and killer of elderly women in Madrid as their department head does his best to keep these attacks out of the news. The Pope is just about to visit the city — the film is set in the summer of 2011, just before the Pope made a real-life appearance there — and their boss doesn’t want the newspapers to start a panic and an ill-timed wave of bad publicity.
Alfaro (Roberto Alamo) is a hot-headed, no-nonsense cop with a violent streak that extends to his fellow officers. His partner Velarde (Antonio de la Torre) is a stuttering loner who initially prefers the off-hours companionship of vinyl record albums. Although the odd-couple pairing of partners is nothing new to films of this sort, the characters are richly written, with deep-seated troubles and shocking secrets of their own.
The screenplay by director Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Isabel Pena is taught, gripping stuff. Sorogoyen ratchets up the stakes and the tension, with highlights including an on-foot chase scene through crowded streets and a confrontation between one of the cops and a suspect. The dramatic scenes are pulled off with aplomb, as well, thanks in large part to the top-notch performances of the two leads. Antonio de la Torre as the stuttering Velarde and Roberto Alamo as the quick-tempered (to put it mildly) Alfaro both shine in their roles. The supporting cast all turn in fine performances, as well.
Alejandro de Pablo’s magnificent cinematography brings a stunning beauty to the dark, ugly world of May God Save Us. As viewers begin learning about the chaotic lives and worlds of Velarde and Roberto, de Pablo uses a cinema verite style with shaky camera, but he eventually shifts to a less frenetic style as the story progresses. The editing work of Alberto del Campo and Fernando Franco is outstanding, and Olivier Arson’s score compliments the proceedings fantastically.
Prepare to be thrown off guard by May God Save Us, and to have your first impressions of characters and your allegiances with them muddied or ripped right from under you. Velarde and Roberto are both flawed men who commit heinous acts even though they pursue criminals for a living. Their social skills and difficulties in dealing with other people are on harrowing display. This powerful, exciting thriller is among the best crime films I have seen this year, though it left me — as director Rodrigo Sorogoyen intended — with uneasy feelings.
May God Save Us screens at South Korea’s 21st Busan International Film Festival, which runs October 6-15, 2016