Like Hitchcock with a nasty streak, Argentinian director Rodrigo Grande crafts a tight, vicious crime thriller with At the End of the Tunnel. With a twisting, turning, rigidly constructed plot that shifts and evolves over the course of the movie, this is a dark, tension-heavy throwback of the kind we see woefully few of in modern times.
Wheelchair-bound computer tech Joaquin (Leonardo Sbaraglia) lives alone in a big house with his ancient dog, clinging to painful memories, wallowing in isolation and shadowy grief. When finances compel him to rent out the top floor of his house to Berta (Clara Lago), an ebullient stripper, and her mute daughter, Betty (Una Salduende), it shakes up his life. But as he gradually comes out of his shell, he unearths a scheme by a gang of hoods next door to tunnel under his house and rob a local bank.
As the story progresses, he discovers the plot goes so much further than he expected. With careful reveals, meticulously established and executed, Grande, who also penned the script, redirects the narrative time and again. Especially early on, just when we think we have a handle on what’s happening, we learn we’re completely wrong and uncover layers we never see coming.
I could’ve done without one particularly ghastly thread that has more to do with making an already vicious criminal (Pablo Echarri) even more revolting—without revealing too much, in one regard, it’s necessary for mechanical reasons, but overall, it’s a step too far. And the film as a whole could, admittedly, stand a bit of tightening in places.
Even with a handful of minor flaws, At the End of the Tunnel packs a punch. Sbaraglia’s broken, damaged misanthrope grows and develops, searching for redemption and connection. And Lago makes Berta much more than just the hot-mess party-girl she appears to be at first. Slick editing, excellent use of interior confines and overgrown exteriors, and a unique score and sound editing, create a package that’s both fresh and familiar, putting new flourishes on a classic noir-inspired tale. [Grade: B+]