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  Jailbreak Pact The Dig
Year: 2020
Director: David Albala
Stars: Benjamin Vacuna, Eusebio Arenas, Amparo Noguera, Roberto Farias, Patricio Contreras, Francisca Galivan, Diego Ruiz, Mateo Iribarren, Gonzalo Conelo, Willy Semler, Mauricio Roa, Victor Montero, Alberto Ellena, Juan Diaz Garay, Vladimir Huaiquinir
Genre: Drama, Thriller, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1988, and in South America, Chile remains under the thumb of the fascist dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet. But there is opposition, which has led to protest, but also has the effect of increasing the numbers of political prisoners in the jails, and as they do not have high security prisons, these people are relegated to their own blocks to keep them away from the other inmates. The conditions are cramped, and though they are allowed to busy themselves with crafts and football, television too, there are regular victimisations of the politically incarcerated, including beatings, and of course many of them have the death penalty to look forward to since they are there while their lawyers try to reduce their sentences. This cannot go on...

Jailbreak Pact, originally known as Pacto de Fuga in its native Chile, was based on a true story, and though some liberties were taken with the truth to render more of a thriller scenario, it was more or less accurate to the spirit of the facts, as seen by the authentic newspaper headlines in the end credits. Some quibbled that the politics of the characters were somewhat downplayed, them being Communists in the main, but it was mentioned, and we did get the impression of a group of men on the left of a very right wing regime enough times to be clear these were not prisoners for crimes like murder or rape. That said, halfway through they did get agitated about some of the supposed freedom fighters ruining their cause by turning to violent attacks on the police.

Director David Albala was unusual in that he was a paraplegic, and even in this point of the twenty-first century disabled film directors were rare, but his talent for keeping what was quite a long set of scenes simmering away over the course of two hours plus had been honed in television. You could see how this would have made for a pretty decent miniseries had they split it in two, but Albala had the nous to offer up shots and suspense scenes worthy of the medium that would have been lessened on a TV screen (though admittedly, that's where most would watch it). Still, it always felt justified as a motion picture, and once the prisoners start to dig their escape tunnel, which gruellingly will take well over a year to complete with no guarantee of success, this was pretty engrossing stuff with only the occasional longueurs.

There was a large ensemble cast, and with their era-appropriate hairdos and facial furniture there was a danger that some could be difficult to follow through the plot, which was by no means simple. Certainly the ostensible lead Benjamin Vacuna was slightly hampered by the character playing the doctor who had the same glasses and shaggy barnet as he did, and there were rather too many portly, moustachioed middle aged men to contend with. Set that aside, and you had a solid prison break effort, the baddies and goodies well delineated so if you were so inclined you could hiss the guards and officials and cheer the political inmates when things went their way, not easy when they had to suffer through aggressive searches, beatings, solitary and even an earthquake that threatens to cave in the precious tunnel. Though even here there was a little nuance: the regulation informer is not some wicked turncoat, but a man trying to save his family from the authorities' death squads. Overall, maybe there were no real surprises here, especially if you knew the story beforehand, but it was a demonstration political cinema could be as good as one of the better thrillers.

[Signature Entertainment presents Jailbreak on Digital Platforms 1st March 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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