Starring: Blanca Suárez, Mario Casas, Carmen Machi
Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Running Time: 102 mins
The Bar (El bar) is a Spanish film about a group of people who become holed up in a central Madrid bar after a man is abruptly murdered right outside, sparking accusations and tensions that run the risk of turning everyone against each other.
It’s such a simple premise taken to such ridiculous heights, but The Bar is a brilliant exercise in rapid-fire popcorn entertainment. Sure, it may not be the world’s most intelligent thriller, but it makes use of its small setting and large cast expertly, making for a thoroughly entertaining watch throughout with a series of increasingly ridiculous twists that do nothing but up the fun factor even more, and will keep you glued to the screen right to the very end.
In similar fashion to other survival thrillers that pit ordinary people against each other, from Exam to The Belko Experiment, The Bar does a great job at bringing a whole range of characters and actors together to make a fully coherent and swiftly-delivered story throughout.
It’s not an easy job to have so many major personalities occupying the screen, particularly when it’s in as small a space as a local bar, but the film manages to make it work, by giving each character their individual stand-out moments, and doing enough to turn them all into suspects of some sort, unexpectedly giving the film a bit of an Agatha Christie feel to it.
Of course, this is nowhere near as refined nor deeply intelligent as any Agatha Christie story, and there are times when you can tell what’s coming up, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less fun to watch. Much like the legendary opening scene of Wild Tales, The Bar is completely relentless in its pace from start to finish, somehow managing to keep increasing the speed of events throughout with a series of more and more outlandish twists and revelations, all of which are both hilarious to see and still shocking and surprising enough to keep you interested in the story.
And what’s even better is that the film is fully aware of how silly it can be sometimes. Director Álex de la Iglesia does an amazing job at keeping up such a high intensity throughout, and managing to keep the story moving when it seems like there are no other possible avenues it could take forward, but it’s the fact that it has that fun-loving side to it that makes it a really enjoyable watch, and makes some of its more ridiculous moments all the more acceptable.
Of course, that’s not to say that the film is just a simple comedy, because it’s still actually a very good, and often very tense thriller. Apart from a slightly over-the-top final ten minutes, the film actually manages to keep itself fairly grounded when it comes to developing the mystery throughout, never running itself out of steam too early, and always managing to keep you intrigued with its plethora of twists and turns. It may not match up to the likes of 12 Angry Men, but it does still have a properly exciting story, and that’s what really makes it so much fun to watch.
And finally, there’s the performances. As I said earlier, the fact that the film manages to have such a big ensemble cast and prevent the story from descending into a mess is impressive enough, but what’s more is that all of the actors genuinely shine in their respective roles. Ranging from the likable Blanca Suárez to the unsettling Jaime Ordóñez and a whole lot more, the film really works thanks to its range of different personalities on show, and the strength of all of their performances allows the clash of characters to feel all the more real in the scenario at hand.
On the whole, I had an absolute blast with The Bar. It’s a great survival thriller that will entertain you endlessly with its relentlessly fast pace, fantastically over-the-top twists and turns, strong performances and pitch-perfect directing, and although it may not be the most serious affair, it’s a film that I highly recommend you seek out, which is why I’m giving it an 8.0.