Alatriste Review - A Bit Like Braveheart
19 September 2006
© Estudios Picasso / O....
A bit like Braveheart with a Castilian accent, Agustin Diaz-Yanes' Alatriste is a lavishly-mounted but only intermittently engaging epic adapted from the bestselling series of novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte.
Exquisitely photographed and anchored by a quietly assured performance by Viggo Mortensen as 17th century soldier-turned-mercenary Diego Alatriste, the picture has an episodic, stitched-together feel that prevents it from taking the viewer on the kind of fully involving journey into another time and place required in order to hit a commercial bull's-eye.
Still, there are sufficient high points to ensure that it plays solidly, especially in Spanish-speaking markets.
Speaking of Spanish-speaking, Mortensen in fact does his own, having lived several years in Argentina and Venezuela. When we first meet his unconditionally committed Alatriste, he's on a cold, grim battlefield in Flanders, fighting the good fight for the declining Spanish empire.
Upon his return home, honoring the dying wish of a good friend killed during an ambush, Alatriste raises the man's son, Inigo (Unax Ugalde), while putting his trusty sword to use as a hired assassin.
But the Spain that greets him has fallen into a cesspool of corruption, abetted by a weak monarch, the scheming Count-Duke Olivares (Javier Camara) and the all-powerful Holy Inquisition. Alatriste nevertheless manages to keep his head above it all, even as he exposes a vulnerable side carrying on a longtime affair with the famous, but spoken for, actress Maria de Castro (Ariadna Gil).
An actor with the kind of unspoken presence that doesn't need a lot of fancy dialogue, Mortensen works to considerable advantage here, convincingly taking on the physical demands of his role in equal measure with his character's unshakable integrity.
The supporting players are, for the most part, equally well cast, with sturdy character work by Camara, Gil and a sympathetic turn by young Ugalde.
Filmmaker Agustin Diaz Yanes (Nobody Will Speak of Us When We're Dead), who also penned the adaptation, scores full visual points even if the 135-minute production hits its share of dull patches, incorporating stirring, beautifully lit compositions informed by the paintings of Velazquez, masterfully captured by cinematographer Paco Femenia.
Last edited: 27 September 2006 22:29:15
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