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“Antonio Banderas and Academy Award winner Emma Thompson star in this gripping political thriller from Academy Award-winning director Christopher Hampton. Carlos Rueda (Banderas) is the director of a children’s theater in Buenos Aires, a city haunted by the disappearance of thousands who have spoken up against the dictator in power.
When his wife, Cecilia (Thompson), disappears after writing a controversial article, Carlos discovers he has the power to look into the faces of those seeking the missing and see the fate of the people they love. But no matter how desperately he searches for his own wife, he always finds himself one step behind.
Pushed to the limits of survival, it’s up to Cecilia to find her way to Carlos in a journey filled with danger, horror and suspense.”
Imagining Argentina is rated R for Violence/Torture and Brief Language.
Then the movie takes a major left turn. Antonio Banderas as Carlos Rueda discovers that he has psychic powers and can see the fates of those who have been kidnapped by touching their loved ones. The movie goes from a documentary to a supernatural thriller. Carlos’ visions are haunting and scary, especially so as he receives visions of the fate of his missing wife. Carlos uses the psychic clues to try and track down Cecilia. As Carlos races against time to try and find her, he also becomes like a prophet for those who have loved ones who have disappeared. This is a really intriguing concept and I found myself hooked by the movie as it took this unexpected turn.
Unfortunately, the last third of the movie takes a very violent turn as more of Carlos’ loved ones are kidnapped. We are then treated to his visions of them being raped, tortured, and beaten. It becomes so extreme that it starts to turn your stomach. Imagining Argentina turns from entertainment to almost a snuff film. If this movie had been non-fiction, I could have tolerated the violence a little more because it would have emphasized the atrocities that went on in a supposedly civilized society. However, showing this stuff for the sake of fiction seems disturbing. At the end, the movie makes a statement about how many people “disappeared!” (yes, with an exclamation mark) in various countries. But since the movie dealt largely with psychic visions, it’s hard to separate the fact from fiction. Whatever cautionary tale they intended is lost.
Despite the wildly varying tone of the film, the performances are generally good. Antonio Banderas is good as Carlos Rueda, the psychic and grieving husband. He handles the supernatural side well along with the dramatic, emotional moments. However, he seems to give up a little easily as his loved ones are literally dragged screaming from his arms never to be seen again. Personally, they’d have to kill me first to get away with something like that. The movie loses its sense of urgency over time as Carlos is shown getting back to his normal life while Cecilia is tortured and repeatedly raped in prison. Emma Thompson is also good as Cecilia Rueda. Initially she is very passionate about speaking out against injustices. However, as she’s taken away to prison, the rest of her performance is just watching her get brutally raped, beaten, physically tortured, and mentally tortured. This is not a “feel good” performance. It’s nearly unwatchable.
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