Intacto | Movie Reviews + Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Soldiers of misfortune

How would it feel to be the luckiest man on Earth - so lucky that you alone survive an airplane crash that kills 237 people' And how would you use that luck, knowing that you could control the fate of others, especially in matters of life and death'

Fortunately, the slick Spanish supernatural thriller Intacto doesn't bother, at least overtly, with such mundane queries. Instead, writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo treats us to an imaginary world where the rules and the intrigue unravel artfully, keeping you in its mondo-creepy grip. His movie is relentlessly absorbing precisely because it doesn't pause to weigh in. You can ponder its gravitas yourself if you choose, or you can just accept its only tacit assertion: that love, after all, is the answer.

In the metaphysics of Intacto, there's no such thing as "bad luck." You either have luck or you don't, and if you do, then it's all a matter of degree. Tomas does, and so he survived the plane crash, ostensibly by draining the luck out of everyone else on board. He didn't intend to do it, so he's not a murderer. But he is a thief, being trailed by a steely cop (Monica Lopez) who's alive only because of a transfer of luck at a critical moment in her own life.

With the help of a fellow who preys on the luckiest, Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia) flees custody to engage in a series of high-risk games of luck in which you could, for example, run blindfolded into a tree. The games serve several purposes, but the ultimate one is to win the right to play Russian roulette with Samuel Berg (Max von Sydow), who resides in a subterranean vault at a gambling casino that's eerily isolated, like a mirage, in the middle of a desert. Berg lives with the guilt of how he so luckily survived a Nazi concentration camp, and you sense that he looks forward to the deliverance he'll feel when someone's luck with the revolver finally surpasses his.

Intacto is every frame as strange as it sounds, and Fresnadillo makes you pay attention if you want to keep up with his serpentine imagination. It all seems to make sense, but you may not really care: It's all highly entertaining, with satisfying new twists and ironies just when you think it's about to run out.

What a happy accident that Fresnadillo hired von Sydow, who once played chess with Death, to portray "the god of chance" in Intacto. With his roots so deep in the Bergmanic, this famously saturnine actor trades in metaphor like no one else. When Berg explains how he survived the camp, von Sydow's plangent pipes turns an obligatory speech into a bizarre reminder of the unluckiest moment in modern history, and of how the Jews, once again, escaped annihilation by a twist of fate that nothing on Earth can truly explain. In English and Spanish, with subtitles.

Starts Fri., June 6. Oaks


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