“What’s it like, True Detective in Spain?” – Sarah Leech, digital content producer
This is a quote from a colleague of mine who, when I told her I’d watched Marshland the night before, asked me what it was like. I swear to you, that was the very tagline I’d created in my head about half an hour in. Even Wikipedia references the comparisons in an online article for HoyCinema.
Great minds and all that.
And while it’s no detriment to the Goya-winning police procedural to be compared to such a series (the first one, at least), there’s a somewhat pedestrian air to said police proceedings that casts a long, frowning shadow over its relatively brisk 106 minutes.
The story is fine, the acting is fine, the visuals are fine – special mention going to several knockout aerial shots of brief criminal encounters and sun-parched crime scenes. These alone could justify the entrance fee, but only really if the film was a feature-length version of Andrew Marr’s Britain From Above. Which it isn’t. It’s a perfectly serviceable crime thriller, with plenty of character ambiguity and serious faces to tick all the relevant boxes. It’s such a shame it doesn’t do more than it says on the tin.
Suárez (Raúl Arévalo) and Robles (Javier Gutiérrez) are two cops in Spain, circa 1980 – one young and grizzled, the other slightly older (and slightly more grizzled). Packed off almost immediately after the credits roll to investigate the murder of two teenage girls in the backwater locale of the Guadalquivir Marshes (hence the title), it soon becomes apparent that there’s more to this crime than the townsfolk are letting on. Add to that the rather abrasive methods Robles uses on his suspects – murky deals made with individuals who may have something to gain from the investigation – and an all-round sense that no-one wants to quite tell the truth no matter which side they’re on, and you have a soup-thick plot which could give Broadchurch a run for its money.
However, unlike Broadchurch, there’s very little page-turning tension to be chewed on. There’s nothing wrong with the ingredients, but the resulting meal never fully satisfies. Let me be contentious: if this film had been released as an English language American production, you can bet it wouldn’t have received half the plaudits. It’s a solid three-starrer, nothing more.
With that in mind, I do feel there’s a bigger discussion to be had around the idea that a film being ‘foreign’ (excuse the colloquialism) automatically grants it a free pass to be given more credit and kudos than its English language counterparts. Case in point being Schwarzenegger’s latest outing, Maggie. It’s not bad, the script and style suitably muted in tone, a zombie film with an emotional pulse. And yes, even the acting isn’t terrible, Schwarzenegger making a half-decent fist of ‘real’ emotions; he fairs no worse than any other Austrian former bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-State Governor. It’s ‘alright’. But were it to have been Korean/French/Guatemalan? I fear the red carpet may have been rolled out.
Food for thought? Maybe, maybe not. Watch this space – I’ll be back. (to argue my case a little better, that is.)
By David Petty