The Squad

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(2011) ★★★

Film4: PREMIERE Saturday 27 June, 1.05am

A high mountain command unit is sent to investigate when an isolated military base suddenly ceases communication. Has it been overrun by guerrillas? Or something worse? The discovery of a woman bound and gagged behind a wall covered in a prayer scrawled in chalk suggests everyone’s in for an uncomfortable night. Especially us. Because Colombian film-maker Jaime Osorio Marquez lays on the misty-mountain atmosphere with a trowel in the kind of horror story that’s been told from South Korea (in The Guard Post and R-Point) to Australia (Crawlspace) and all points west: Michael Mann’s The Keep, Britfilm double-up The Bunker and Outpost. Soldiers going crazy in confined spaces – however familiar the set-up, it commands attention. But, in the first of several missteps, Marquez fails to make the most of his striking location. Indifferently shot with a drab palette limited on the outside to green fatigues, shale grey and hillside mud, blood and shadows on the inside, it’s hardly a visually arresting picture. This is compounded by close-in handheld camerawork that makes a nonsense of using a widescreen scope format. The fact that crazy Cortez (Alejandro Aguilar) and medic Ramos (Juan David Restrepo) look so alike adds to a general air of confusion in a blunt little morality tale whose characters are mostly identifiable only by rank. Except for Indian and Negro. They’re distinctive and, yes, that’s how they’re addressed, as Indian and Negro. These are soldiers, not sophisticates. And the mostly improvised dialogue underlines that fact all too plainly. As an exercise in disgrace under pressure, it’s sorely lacking in tension and thrills.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 104min