Deceptively simple at the onset yet increasingly more profound as the story progresses, Rage, the third feature film from writer/director Sebastián Cordero, offers a thoughtful meditation on the self-destructive effects of anger served up in the guise of a masterful thriller.
South American exile José María (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) was working on a construction site in Spain when he met radiant Brazilian maid Rosa (Martina García). At first it seemed that their romance would be fleeting, but the connection forged between them quickly grew more intense than either anticipated. However, when a confrontation between José and his boss turns violent, the illegal immigrant finds himself on the run from the law -- a stranger in a strange land. Hiding out in the cavernous, crumbling home of the wealthy family that employs Rosa, José watches his radiant girlfriend from afar, occasionally calling her from an alternate telephone line inside of the house, just to hear her voice. Later, just as Rosa learns she is carrying José's child, her employer's family shows up for an unexpected visit, driving the desperate intruder ever deeper into the suffocating confines of his own personal prison.
Convention can be a powerful tool when wielded by filmmakers who choose to use it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. By folding this astute existential tale into the foundation of a typical romantic thriller, Cordero plants seeds of introspection in our minds, and uses tension to make them grow. As a director, Cordero displays a keen understanding of what it takes to manipulate his audience, a talent that he employs with great effectiveness as his screenwriting sleight of hand burrows ever deeper into our subconscious. At first we see José María as a ticking time bomb trapped in a house with an innocent family. As the story progresses, however, we steadily become aware that his fury isn't as great a danger to others as it is to himself. Ultimately, the man we first viewed as a monster in the making slowly morphs into a tragic figure whose own uncontrollable anger renders him blind to the possibilities that life has to offer.
This would not have been possible without an actor capable of gaining our sympathy while simultaneously making us shrink away, and with the brooding intensity of a young Harvey Keitel, Parra hits every note of his performance with equal conviction. And José María's increasingly distressed emotional state is gorgeously punctuated by cinematographer Enrique Chediak's (127 Hours, 28 Weeks Later) moody imagery, which casts the character of José María into increasingly tenebrous shadows as he retreats into the darkness of his own soul. As José María's increasingly distressed girlfriend, Rosa, co-star García displays a compelling blend of inner strength and guarded optimism that gives the character genuine depth. Not only does her convincing performance help to raise the stakes for José María, but it also provides the film with an emotional anchor as the story steers into uncharted territory. Meanwhile, director Cordero lays on the style just enough so that our eyes are able to appreciate the beauty of the film as our minds process the message being delivered.
Rage is one of those precious few films with the power to entertain, surprise, and encourage thoughtful reflection in equal measure. One needn't been an illegal immigrant to identify with the many frustrations José María contends with on a daily basis, and perhaps by bearing witness to the devastating, corrosive effects that his unchecked anger has on both himself and the ones he loves, we can all take the opportunity to step outside of ourselves for just a brief moment, and ensure that we're not headed down that same ruinous road. There will always be room for mindless entertainment, but Rage is cinema with true meaning -- a movie designed to offer insight into the human condition. By packaging that message in a movie that also keeps us on the edge of our seats, Cordero has established himself as a filmmaker with a unique insight into suffering, and a genuine talent for engaging an audience.