Mirage movie review: Oriol Paulo's thriller fails to rise above the superficial complexity of its narrative

Anupam Kant Verma

Apr 03, 2019 14:26:14 IST


Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)

Oriol Paulo has carved out a distinct space within contemporary Spanish cinema with The Body (2012) and The Invisible Guest (2016), smart and intricately constructed thrillers chock full of twists. Indian audiences recently had a taste of his work with Badla, which was an official remake of The Invisible Guest. Mirage, presented by Netflix, is his latest foray into his favourite genre. It possesses Paulo’s trademark intricate screenplay, a wealth of twists and turns, and revs up the ambition by mounting a time-travel story separated by 25 years.

Mirage movie review: Oriol Paulos thriller fails to rise above the superficial complexity of its narrative

Adriana Ugarte in Mirage. Netflix

Atmospheric, dense and featuring a stand-out central performance by Adriana Ugarte, Mirage dazzles and disappoints equally and uniquely. Owing to the outlandish nature of its inciting incident, the film’s emotional core, usually nurtured with great care by Paulo, loses much of its impact. But the narrative goes down so many forking paths during the film’s two hour odd runtime, swerving here and there with clockwork regularity, that it remains a fascinating watch nonetheless. Missing is the depth Paulo’s features gradually come to possess, replaced here by the attention the detailed nature of the film demands from the audience, itself momentarily let down by a twist or two most viewers will anticipate coming from a distance.

The film begins on the day the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Young Nico’s videotaping session of him playing the guitar is interrupted by a disruption in the house next door. He reaches the house in time to witness Angel Prieto (Javier Gutierrez) standing over the dead body of his wife. Nico runs out in fright but is mowed down by a passing car.

Fast forward 25 years later. Vera (Ugarte), a young mother, finds a television in her new house on the night of a similar storm. She switches it on to discover Nico playing his guitar. He walks up to the screen and talks to her. Vera, who learned about the murder from friends, tries to stop Nico from rushing to Angel’s house. But her earnest fiddling with the fabric of time sends her down a rabbit hole. She wakes up next day to discover that her life’s changed, her husband is gone and her child never existed. The rest of the film follows Vera’s frantic attempts to snatch her life back before the storm’s moved on and it’s too late.

The complex story just described becomes all the more intricate with Vera’s explorations. Her life disrupted by the butterfly effect of her actions acquires an intensity and urgency that keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat. But the multiple strands, however carefully managed, mitigate the film’s emotional impact. Mirage fails to rise above the superficial complexity of its narrative. It becomes all too engrossed with its structure and forking paths to offer edifying fare.

Paulo’s signature grasp of atmosphere and his ability to hit the right beats to enhance tension are present. Ugarte, and that titan among Spanish actors, Gutierrez, keep us interested in the goings-on. But Paulo fails in the treatment of the twists that form the dramatic core of his enterprise. The structure of the film is built upon them. But their impact is severely harmed by predictability, errors of emphasis and Chino Darin’s disappointing turn as a police officer.

Paulo would have fared better had he disposed of at least one of the strands that led to a weak, unnecessary twist, the marital situation for instance, thereby tightening his screenplay and focusing the viewer’s attention on the emotional core of the story. This reviewer was visibly moved by the last few minutes of the film. But their impact could have been magnified manifold by an economy of storytelling that led to them.

Nevertheless, Mirage remains a better than average thriller with a few outstanding moments. It doesn’t soar to the heights of Paulo’s previous films. A case can be made that it never set out to do so — that the director wanted to offer a tense thriller that kept his audience on the edge of their seats. It works that way. It lacks recall value. But is entertaining and largely engrossing while it lasts.

Mirage is now streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 14:26:14 IST

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