Starring: Juana Acosta, Àlex Brendemühl, Paco León
Director: Roger Gual
Running Time: 77 mins
7 Años is a Spanish film about four people who gather together to make an impossible decision. One must go to prison, sacrificing themselves for the greater good, while the others must be able to give something back in return.
While this isn’t quite a masterpiece, 7 Años is a film that proves you don’t need to be long and overbearing to make for a really striking watch. Coming in at just 1 hour and 17 minutes, it’s fair to say that is a rather short and sharp film, but it packs a mighty punch at times, impressing with riveting drama and unpredictable twists that, while not quite edge-of-your-seat stuff, do make for a thoroughly enthralling watch throughout.
It’s a simple premise – four people and a mediator gather around a table to decide which one of them should take the bullet and go to prison for 7 years, letting the rest get off. That alone is more than enough to make for an engaging watch, and the promise of four people intensely doing battle through dialogue is mouth-watering to say the least, with the tension ramped up as they find themselves against the clock as well.
The opening few minutes, where the movie tries to give a bit of context to what the characters do and why they’re in this situation, are a little slow-moving, and in all truth partially irrelevant. For me, 7 Años would have been even more striking if it just threw you into the beginning of the negotiations, not knowing why they’re in this scenario, but being entirely engrossed all the same.
Of course, a group of people locked in one room trying to come to a unanimous decision no matter what isn’t an entirely original premise. 12 Angry Men, an all-time classic of cinema, uses the same story to incredible effect, and works as a very high benchmark for 7 Años.
Now, in no way is this as impressive as 12 Angry Men. Sidney Lumet’s movie has an almost incomparable tension, claustrophobia and breathlessness that totally captivates you as you see characters who never look like they’ll change come round to another way of thinking – all achieved through patient and intelligent dialogue.
7 Años doesn’t have the same tension by any means, and its characters are a little more like caricatures, meaning that they don’t have the same development over the course of the story, remaining a little more entrenched in their ways and beliefs, taking away from some of the potential excitement of the story.
Saying that, however, the movie sits on a knife-edge throughout, and although it’s not something that had me biting my nails, it has great unpredictability and drama that remains entirely engaging throughout, thanks to strong, dialogue-based thrills, a contained scope and great performances across the board.
Overall, I rather liked 7 Años. It’s not a perfect movie, and perhaps misses out on a few of the tricks of its premise that better films like 12 Angry Men have used to great effect. However, it’s a short, sharp and exciting thriller with great dialogue, real unpredictability and engaging, grounded thrills, which is why I’m giving it a 7.3.