“… definitely takes it’s time, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering great performances and an intense story.”
It is often taught that you should not judge a book by it’s cover, and yet I still find myself doing exactly that. The latest example is with the movie The Dancer Upstairs. When you hear that title you instantly think that it is a drama, most likely involving love story, and this is only solidified when you see the poster. But as is always the lesson when judging a book by its cover, I was completely surprised by what I received when I watched the film. The Dancer Upstairs is a film that is about a detective in an unnamed Latin-American country who finds himself pitted against a terrorist group led by a man that no one is familiar with: President Ezequiel. The attacks that take place range from things such as posters being placed around the city, all the way to people being executed in the middle of a theatre in front of everyone. The movie follows this detective, Agustin Rejas, not only as he solves these strings of crimes, but also in his personal life as he starts to befriend his daughters ballet instructor. The Dancer Upstairs offers an interesting and intense story presented in a very calm manner.
The Dancer Upstairs has a few major problems in my eyes, the first being the fact that the film presents a complex political climate but never really makes clear which side everyone is on. On one hand you have this unnamed man, President Ezequiel, who is essentially attempting to overthrow the current government by infecting people with propaganda. You then have the current government who is never really represented in the film except for a few stories that are recounted via the main character. And finally you have the military who show up and seem to simultaneously be working for both parities. This leads to confusion because the film never makes clear who is working for whom, and which cause they are pursuing. Of course, by the end of the movie it doesn’t really matter because the goal the entire time was to catch the terrorist, not figure out who to vote for. There is also an interesting issue that involves the main character, Agustin Rejas (played by Javier Bardem), seemingly drifting in and out of knowing who the terrorist is. We are told about halfway through the movie that the main character knows who is leading the terrorist group (and so do we), but instead of finding the proof that we know exist, the investigation continues and the main character seemingly forgets that he ever mentioned it. The third issue that I had with The Dancer Upstairs resolved itself and became a non-issue, but I feel that I should mention it anyway. Throughout the film we are presented with a lot of situations (mainly those involving the main character) that seem to not pertain to the main story. This causes the movie to slow down to almost a snail’s pace a few times and it became frustrating. It became a non-issue when the film came to an end and it was revealed that those scenes as a matter of fact did hold relevance to the rest of the film. Of course to blatantly point this out would cause all of the mystery to be gone, but rest assured that when you watch The Dancer Upstairs it doesn’t waste your time.
I really did enjoy The Dancer Upstairs, even though it was a really slow burn it never really got to the point where I was bored. There were a few points (that I mentioned earlier) that seemed to go nowhere, but even then those scenes were divided nicely by the research aspect of the investigation. I really enjoyed the performance that Javier Bardem gave as Agustin Rejas because it seemed real. Apart from a few exceptions Bardem never had the opportunity to flex his acting muscles so to speak, but that fit the character. Much like the movie itself the character of Agustin Rejas is very collected in his demeanour, this means that almost all of Bardem’s acting relied on subtleties that would allow us as an audience to get a sense of what the character is feeling. This was done very well by Bardem in my opinion. There was also a relationship between all of the cops that felt real; I truly believed that these people had spent a good portion of their lives together solving cases and putting away bad guys. Apart from all of that The Dancer Upstairs had nothing else that really stood out to me. The editing was good, the locations were great, the story was engaging. I do want to quickly mention that The Dancer Upstairs has the absolute worst rendition of All Along The Watchtower that I have ever heard, but apart form the music was also fine.
Ultimately The Dancer Upstairs is a movie that definitely takes it’s time, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering great performances and an intense story.
I give The Dancer Upstairs a B