3 reviews. Careful for spoilers.
Neither actor the kind of material they merit
Both Watson and Bruhl do what they can with what’s on offer, though their performances are hampered by all the flat dialogue, as well as by the film’s refusal to truly contextualize anything outside a few explanations in the opening and closing title cards.
An opening scene that has Lufthansa stewardess, Lena (Watson), and her graphic designer lover, Daniel (Bruhl), meeting by pure chance at a street rally in support of Salvador Allende.
After a few days spent frolicking beneath the sheets, and a repeated joke about Daniel wearing a kitchen apron with nothing underneath (though they left out the joke part), the sweethearts are eventually cornered by Pinochet’s troops in the middle of Santiago, with Daniel then sent to Colonia for a series of enhanced interrogations.
Lena soon decides to go up and save him, disguising herself as a believer so she can infiltrate the camp. What she finds inside is unpleasant indeed, though what’s even more intolerable is Gallenberger’s insistence on using banal horror film techniques, including a nonstop ‘80’s-style score from Andre Dziezuk and Fernando Velazquez, to make it all seem scary – as if torture weren’t scary enough.
Once we witness Colonia’s atrocities – which also entail the public humiliation and mass beating of young women – Colonia turns into a prison break film where Lena tries to get Daniel out alive, while Daniel keeps pretending he’s a “retard” (the movie’s words) so he can fool the baddies and plot his flight to freedom. The third act is filled with various action film tropes (cue the chase scene through a network of underground tunnels), and then some late twists that are fairly easy to telegraph.
The TIFF crowd erupted in uproarious cheer during two separate instances of good guys prevailing. Watson and Bruhl’s performances are a big part of this because we align ourselves with them fiercely.
Watson, who has grown into an excellent adult actress, is pretty good, even if her character looks too made up considering the hardships she’s put through. But both actors [Emma and Daniel] have to work harder than should be necessary due to some very clunky, melodramatic dialogue.