Before the Fall (aka Tres días) is a terrific Spanish thriller with an end-of-the-world setting. This thoughtful genre-mixing film takes place in a small Spanish village as the news breaks that a giant meteor has begun rapidly descending towards earth. The meteor is expected to hit the planet in just three days and scientists predict that the world will come to a sudden and violent end when it does. As these events begin to unfold director and co-writer F. Javier Gutiérrez focuses his camera on one very troubled family that is struggling to live with some deep scars caused by a traumatic encounter with a serial killer many years earlier. Unfortunately the family is forced to face their past head-on when the killer escapes from jail in the chaos following the frantic news announcement of the meteor’s decent.
In most films with a doomsday plot line the characters act as if they don’t have a past. But they’re willing to fight for a future that often seems vague and undefined. Characters might struggle with family matters before the action starts and occasionally make reference to it as the drama progresses, but once the adrenaline kicks in their personal history mysteriously seems to vanish into thin air. This lack of emotional depth and character development in many science fiction films and thrillers can be distracting and exasperating for some viewers. Before the Fall is smart enough to reject typical scenarios found in countless apocalyptic films and instead director F. Javier Gutiérrez managed to craft a taut psychological thriller that never forgets about its very human characters.
The film’s deep sense of humanity is what separates Before the Fall from countless other end-of-the-world films that have preceded it. Throughout the course of the film the flawed protagonists in Before the Fall are never allowed to forget their past and the events that have shaped them. Director F. Javier Gutiérrez knows that death is inevitable whether it comes in the form of a giant falling meteor, suicide or a serial killer so the meteor plunging towards earth in Before the Fall is only a minor distraction that never gets in the way of life’s bigger questions and conflicts. The film unapologetically allows viewers to forget about the impending disaster facing planet earth and embrace the troubled family in their very personal plight.
Besides some surprisingly creative directing choices by Gutiérrez, the film also features some wonderful performances from Víctor Clavijo as the reluctant hero of the film as well as Mariana Cordero as his mother and Eduard Fernández as the determined killer. These three characters really make up the heart, soul and mind of this unusual movie that happens to be one of my favorite films of the last decade.
Before the Fall is scheduled to be released on DVD from MPI Home Video on Nov. 3 and you can pre-order it from Amazon for $22.50.
Modern Mondays is an ongoing project here at Cinebeats where I share a few thoughts or lengthy rants and raves about my favorite films produced during the last decade. Films previously mentioned on Modern Mondays include:
– The Left Bank (2008)
– Love Songs (2007)
– Bright Future (2003)
– Control (2007)
– The Quiet American (2001)
– A History of Violence (2005)
– This Is England (2007)
– Shaun of the Dead (2004)
– Innocence (2004)
– Mulholland Dr. (2001)
– Cloverfield (2008)
– Last Life in the Universe (2003)