“Intacto” – Betty Jo Tucker

Survivors of horrible events sometimes suffer deep feelings of guilt. Why did they live when others died? Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo explores the mysterious realm of undeserved luck in Intacto, an enigmatic thriller about four people who engage in a deadly game. The main players? A thief, a policewoman, a casino owner, and his former protégé. These individuals take gambling to frightening extremes, and their destinies intertwine in fascinating and disturbing ways.

When Federico (Eusebio Poncela) discovers that Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is the only person to survive a plane crash, he believes the young thief could be his weapon of revenge against Sam, the God of Chance (Max von Sydow). It seems Sam took away Federico’s power to rob people of their good luck with a touch, so no wonder he’s angry. But Sara (Monica Lopez), a cop who walked away from a car crash that killed her family, is investigating Tomas and also harboring an obsession about uncovering the truth behind an illegal gambling ring run by, who else, the tormented God of Chance. Complicated? Absolutely. But have patience. Everything fits in the end.

Before seeing this movie, I never thought about a person’s luck being stolen. Although I’m still not sure that’s possible, Intacto did cause me to wonder about it. Fresnadillo admits letting his imagination run away with him while creating the surreal Intacto world, a place where individuals can possess luck through some object but also, if they have the “gift,” steal other people’s luck just by touching them. “Intacto fully embraces that magical and dark notion of luck,” the new filmmaker explains.

“Magical” and “dark” aptly describe Fresnadillo’s unusual movie. Good luck becomes a concrete element here, a coin all mortals can win, lose, or steal. Scenes set in a flashy casino located in the middle of a lava field seem most appropriate. In other sequences, Xavier Jiminez’s darkly artistic cinematography echoes the characters’ gloomy loneliness. I was drawn completely into this strange world, even though I felt lucky to be an observer and not a participant.

It’s exciting to watch characters run through a dense forest while wearing blindfolds, and a high-stakes game of Russian roulette puts me on the edge of my seat, but the possibility of such antics in real life escapes me. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed this film so much. I admire an involving movie that explores situations impossible for me to experience while taking me to places I can never go myself. Intacto fills that bill — and adds a unique cinematic style for good measure. Bravo!

Rating: ★★★☆

-Betty Jo Tucker

Betty Jo is lead film critic at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, as well as the host of weekly movie talk radio show Movie Addict Headquarters.

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