Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Intacto (2001), 7.5/10

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Intacto (2001) is a visually-challenging metaphysical thriller that carries out a philosophical recognition while straddling the border between medieval fable (the revenge of the banned prince), magic realism (the universe as a luck-driven machine), Leone's westerns (the last scenes), Lucas' Star Wars (the Jedi-like motif), Borges' fiction (the puzzle-like storyline). The plot is not completely clear (how does Sara relate to the others, and why is she so obsessed with stopping Tomas?) and sometimes plain silly (Samuel is supposedly keeping his face hidden all the time, but then almost everybody sees him). However, it overflows with meditation on human destiny and human nature. In many ways the film exhibits a "medieval" tone, both by rehearsing mythological themes and by confronting the issue of an almost supernatural love. Both the old man's deal with Federico, and Federico's deal with Tomas are Faustian deals. The old man behaves like a mysterious prince who lives in a remote castle, to which knights travel from all over the world just to challenge him. The director displays a sophisticated mastery of suspense, that increases the sense of disorientation.

Samuel is an old man who runs a casino in the middle of the desert. He has raised a man, Federico, as a son, after the old man discovered that Federico has the gift of luck. But now Federico wants to leave him, and Samuel, disappointed and hurt, takes away the gift of luck.
Seven years later, Federico is an insurance agent. A plane has crashed and everybody has died except one lucky (lucky) passenger, Tomas. Tomas is taken to a hospital room, and, while he is unconscious, a woman, Sara, a police detective, comes to check him out. Tomas is a bank robber. He survived, but they found a package full of banknotes strapped to his belly: when he recovers, he will spend life in prison.
Federico is taking a young man, Horacio, to a test. Horacio claims to be lucky, and Federico wants to make sure. Horacio has to cross a busy highway blindfolded. Horacio starts running and almost makes it to the other side. Almost. Federico has filmed the failed attempt and leaves the scene, disappointed, while the drivers involved in the accident gather around the corpse. Among them is Sara the cop, who happened to be driving on that highway.
Federico works with a woman, Claudia, who is examining the corpses of the passengers of the flight that crashed. Federico learns that one passenger survived and gives her some money. Later Federico visits Tomas and tells him that he is entitled to a fortune (the insurance policy), but will have to spend it in prison. Unless he signs a Faustian deal with him. Tomas signs and Federico gets him out. Now they have a lot of money and a plan: Tomas will have to "play" that money in order to make more money, and the winning will simply depend on his luck. Tomas must have a lot of luck: the odds of surviving a plane crash are infinitesimal. Federico has only two rules for Tomas: "don't touch me and don't take pictures of me".
In order to test Tomas' luck, Federico takes him to a building where a few lucky people are assembled. Each of them bets something important, and Tomas is forced to bet a finger. Tomas reluctantly agrees and submits to the game of pure luck (an insect has to choose one of them), and wins.
Federico, convinced that Tomas is truly special, takes him to the villa of a bullfighter, who also belongs to the secret lodge of lucky people. Tomas makes the mistake of calling his old girlfriend Ana: the phone is tapped and the police raids the villa. Tomas and Federico manage to escape, but Tomas has to touch Federico (who gets immediately hurt). When Sara interrogates the bullfighter, she realizes that he is lying (she picks up a little piece of glass from his clothes that proves he faked a burglary, when in reality he gave the two men the keys of the villa). Sara confronts the bullfighter, Alejandro, and arrests him. Alejandro yells at her. He obviously knows who she is, and that she survived a terrible car accident in which both her husband and her child died. She wants to find Tomas, and Alejandro accepts to help her in return for his freedom.
Alejandro takes Sara to a game of luck, hoping that Tomas will show up. The contestants pick one of the volunteers (who are each paid a little bit of money) and take a picture of them. Then the contestants are blindfolded and allowed to touch their volunteer. By touching the person and taking the picture, they absorb their luck. The game is interrupted when Tomas, who arrived later, join the game, and Sara, who was just waiting for this turn of events, tries to arrest him. She is hit by someone and left on the ground, while the others leave.
As Tomas is taking a nap in the car, Federico steals a picture of Ana, Tomas' girlfriend. Sara is studying the dossier on Horacio and realizes that his death is connected to the case of Tomas.
Federico takes Tomas to the site of the next major game of luck. This is the last of a series, that will basically determine who is the luckiest man on Earth. The finalists are all there, including the bullfighter. Each of them delivers his stake in the form of an envelop containing pictures of people from which they will draw their luck. Unknown to Tomas, he is also delivering the picture of Ana. They are blindfolded and asked to run as fast as possible through the thick forest. The runners who crash against a tree are eliminated. Eventually only Tomas and Alejandro are left, and Tomas is beginning to feel invincible as he keeps running faster and faster without hitting any tree. But he loses. Federico leaves him bleeding in the woods, and drives away, ready to start looking for a luckier one. Tomas begs the bullfighter to give him a ride. While in his car, he realizes that Alejandro has "gained" Ana. But there is nothing he can do to "rescue" her.
Alejandro is now taken to the final test: a duel with Samuel. Samuel is a Jew, the only person to survive a concentration camp, the ultimate lucky man. In the final test Alejandro is admitted to his secret hide-out in the desert and given five bullets. In the meantime Ana, one of the people he is "using", is going to bed, and her neighbor is cleaning a gun. Alejandro charges the pistol and shoots Samuel: nothing happens. Samuel's luck. Now Samuel charges the pistol and shoots Alejandro: Alejandro is dead. At the same time Ana's neighbor accidentally triggers a shot that wounds Ana (her luck was not enough to save Alejandro, and furthermore now she lost it). Samuel takes all the pictures that Alejandro had accrued during the preliminary games and files them, including Ana's, in his drawers.
Ana is at the hospital. Sara goes to visit her and begs her to help finding Tomas. Sara learns why Ana did not take the flight that crashed: Tomas broke up with her minutes before boarding. Indirectly, Tomas saved her life by telling her that he didn't love her anymore, something that is obviously not true (Did Tomas already knew that the plane was going to crash when he boarded it?) For a moment Sara imagines what would have happened if she had said "I don't love you anymore" to her husband while they were driving (he would have pulled over, and they would have missed the accident).
Sara finds the clue she was looking for: Horacio was represented by the same insurance company that represented the airline. (Did Federico sabotage the plane to crash, in order to find the "lucky" one?) Sara tracks down Claudia, and Claudia sends her to the casino in the desert.
That's where Federico is heading, but now because he wants to. Tomas has kidnapped him and, after beating the hell out of him, gets the whole story. Samuel has been conducting these duels for 30 years, and never lost. Tomas has decided to challenge him, and the stake is Federico's photo. Thus Federico has been forced to take him to the old man. Federico left the casino as a powerful man, and now returns as a failed man. But he can take his revenge if Tomas does win against Samuel.
Samuel accepts the duel. Before the duel, he chats with Tomas. He is sincerely touched by the fact that Tomas is willing to risk his life in order to rescue his girlfriend's photo. Samuel seems tired of the game, and ready to die. In the meantime, Sara has entered the casino and found the stairs to the secret hide-out. Tomas pulls the trigger and nothing happens: Samuel's luck is still unbeatable, but Samuel does not seem happy about it. It is now Samuel's turn to pull the trigger, but Sara breaks into the room. Samuel turns the gun towards Sara and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. Samuel smiles (because he would have finally lost a duel, or because Tomas would have survived?). Sara shoots to kill. Samuel's gangsters shoot her. By the time Federico arrives, they are all dead except Tomas, who is "intact". Tomas leaves the casino and starts running in the desert.
Federico's plight is particularly interesting. He is no longer a god, after god took away his power, and is now trying to "manufacture" a more powerful god to defy god himself. He is a mortal with a mission. He shows no mercy for anyone. He has no life. He has no identity. He has no passions. He simply wants to create the ultimate god.
As the stakes get higher and higher, and the game gets more and more cynical, the director introduces the factor of love, which is the antithesis of the whole game. That factor changes the relationship between champion and challenger, because the champion begins to side with the challenger.
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