Going overboard – Rediscovering ‘Cámara Oscura’ (Spain 2003 – 105 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - April 23, 2014
Going overboard – Rediscovering ‘Cámara Oscura’  (Spain 2003 – 105 mins)

Known overseas (no pun intended!) as ‘Deadly Cargo’, this mildly engrossing Spanish thriller takes a frighteningly real situation and turns it into a desperate fight for survival.

Sara, an eager young journalist, heads out to sea with a couple of tourists and their diving instructors, for some underwater exploration. Once out at sea, a misfired bullet causes their small boat to explode, leaving the desperate group floating around aimlessly in the middle of the ocean. Spotting a boat in the distance, they frantically swim towards it. As they get closer, one of the group sees what looks like a body being thrown overboard. With no choice but to keep going, they quietly board the sinister ship and are soon holed up below deck . Upon exploring the vessel, Sara and the others soon they realize they are in grave danger as the crew appear to be a gang of ruthless, modern-day pirates.

‘Cámara Oscura ‘ is a decent thriller with some gripping moments and tense sequences. One shocking scene early on has one of the tourists callously shot dead. However, it is not the shooting that shocks the viewer, it’s the fact that this is the one character you would think the film-makers would not kill off. This alarming scene gives the viewer an uneasy feeling from here on in, as no character is safe from being killed off at any time.

Both Silke and Unax Ugalde make a likable pair of young leads, both bringing resourcefulness to their characters roles. As Sara, 29 year old Silke is very good as the capable young journalist. Silke had earlier played a student in the university thriller ‘Tuno Negro’ (2001), a pretty good ‘Scream’ type campus chiller. Spanish up-and-comer Unax Ugalde had one of his first major roles here, and is also good as Ivan, a diving instructor quietly taking charge of the proceedings. Ugalde had a prominent role in Milos Forman’s excellent ‘Goya’s Ghosts (2006), and won plaudits for David Pinillos’ 2010 romance; Bon appétit.

Prolific Spanish actor Lluís Homar is quietly chilling as the murderous ship’s Captain. Homar is best known for playing a blind writer in Pedro Almodóvar’s award-winning drama ‘Broken Embraces’ (2009). Director Pau Freixas does a fine job, making the most of his boat-bound setting, even throwing in some harsh storms to add to the unease.

Although ‘Cámara Oscura’ would never win awards for originality, it remains a pretty good time-filler, well made and competently acted within its claustrophobic setting. Fans of ‘lost-at-sea’ thrillers will find much to enjoy here, and while the climax is fairly predictable, it still manages to be both exciting and nail-biting.

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