South-American genre cinema used to be a deep, dark void for me. We may live in a world where everything is just one Google search away, but that doesn't mean all our cultural boundaries have been torn down yet . Luckily services like Netflix are making it much easier to try less obvious films a la carte, hence how I stumbled upon Isaac Ezban, a Mexican director with a clear vision and an outspoken aesthetic. After seeing and liking The Similars, it was time to give The Incident [El Incidente] a run for its money.
The Incident was Ezban's first feature film, which isn't too much of a surprise when you look at the final result. It's a film that is high on concept, brimming with ideas and almost overflowing with potential. It may lack balance and refinement in places, but it makes up for that with plenty of energy and vitality. It's somewhat of an acquired taste though and if you're looking for more polished, mainstream genre entertainment it's probably best to go with The Similars first, but I tend to prefer these more rash and frivolous films.
That said, the first hour does feel a little derivative. Ezban takes his time to develop the setting, which is two-fold. The first story is about a cop chasing two criminals in a closed off stairway, the second one tells about a family on their way to the beach. Both get stuck in a time loop, which drives the protagonists to near-insanity. Both stories are told seperately and feel like familiar territory, so roughly halfway through you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is just a simple copy/paste affaire.
But then Ezban starts to switch things around. I've seen quite a few time loop films already, but none where characters are actually stuck for life. Seeing them 35 years later, still trapped in that same loop is a nifty and surprisingly disturbing novelty. On top of that, Ezban further expands his concept by giving a unique explanation for the loop phenomenon during his final act. By then the film is racing full force ahead and keeping up with all the craziness requires a little extra attention, so make sure you don't plan any toilet breaks during the second part of The Incident.
Stylistically the first half of the film is a little hit and miss. The are some interesing visual ideas and the soundtrack suits the atmosphere, but the timing feels a little off and some scenes look as if Ezban was hitting his budgetary limitations. Where that budget went becomes apparent during the second part, which features more elaborately constructed settings. It's a nice build-up that goes full crescendo towards the final act. Ezban delivers a nice spin on the explanatory montage and turns a cheesy film cliché into an emotional payoff, with all the right bells and whistles in place.
The Incident is a pretty cool film. The first half looks like classic genre fare, but once Ezban starts moving the pawns around it becomes much more than that. Between The Incident and The Similars, Ezban has already proven himself to be an interesting director who can bring a novel twist to dusty and chewed out concepts. I hope Netflix keeps track of him, because I have no idea how else I would have to keep up with his work. If you like a good mind trip and you don't mind Mexican cinema, The Incident is an easy recommendation.