Flick Reviews: ‘La Isla Minima/Marshland’ (2014)

La Isla Minima (Marshland) is a 2014 Spanish crime-thriller directed by  Alberto Rodríguez. In the film, a serial killer is on the loose. Two homicide detectives who appear to be poles apart must settle their differences and bring the murderer to justice before more young women lose their lives.


Decidedly serious and downcast, Marshland’s cinematic representation of malice and crime lets you reach the bottom of all the mystery, and tangles you in strings of intrigue from its skilled writing and great performances. Creating a pit of mysteries for its narrative, the film simply becomes something that you’d definitely want to sink your teeth into. Most specially since it really feels like a true-crime investigation captured on film. Showing adeptness in its writing, everything that it tries to unfold will keep you holding onto it just as you get surrounded in its grim nature; seizing you right from the start. As its story kicks off the mystery, the film’s lead actors act out their roles in greatness to guide us into its darkest depths. Portraying the cops-one dangerous, the other skilled, are Javier Gutiérrez and Raúl Arévalo.


Both portrayed their roles perfectly and the partner-relationship growing in between them despite their differences are little things that make the film more riveting. Their characterizations are also given something for us to keep thinking about, and in that, a certain uncertainty in them gets built in the process. Making us think on the same level as the mystery that it creates, Marshland also subtly examines these cops’ behaviors  through their psychological state and the emotionally damaging effects that the case leaves them with. However, it delves into that topic with subtlety, barely showing these cops’ sympathy. Nonetheless, their depiction feels very human, with their eagerness in bringing in justice adding yet another layer of realism with the disgust that they show for such vile acts of man. The film’s main themes get conceived in its characters, and it is there where you could see what the film really is going for.


As a viewer, the investigation you make of its filmmaking grabs you to the center of it all, and in there, you are sucked into a cinematic world surrounded in grit, pain and ultimate evil. Depicting the evils of man in the form of a solidly gripping thriller with a realistic feel capable bothering one’s comfort. It could get so lifelike that you could almost feel the stress and psychological trauma that the characters deals with. In that, it is cloaked in a certain horrifying tone that is closer to disturbing than shocking. Unsettling at various points, its true intent to engage and entertain becomes evident. By having a certain sharpness in every sequence, it gets us embroiled and in that, it becomes a truly involving investigation of a real-life crime so heinous that it just needed to be realized onscreen.


How the film depicts such evil is such a mystery in and of itself, that there are even points in the film where you question everything that’s happening because of all the injustice and malevolence that is hidden in man. These questions allow the film to become more than what it is; a deep examination of crime so impactful that it gets everyone involved affected and shocked by such acts. Be it through grotesque imagery or vividly verbal detailing, it gets quite heavy as if the film is stabbing a knife through your soul. Nonetheless, those are all signs that Marshland is a well-crafted dramatic thriller. It may have a Fincher-esque quality to it, but the mere setting alone adds to the non-imaginative realism of the situations onscreen. Making everything that you see more believable as it inflicts a pain almost real that it could be easily felt.


In between those are moments of tension that contribute some thrills. Though the tension doesn’t leave much of an impact to the film as a whole, its rather swift rate leaves something that just contributes to the bigger picture that its story paints. It serves justice on a fiery, hot plate in its intense conclusion, and keeps a face bearing a no-nonsense vibe until the end. The film in its entirety is biting. At particular points its edge gets sharpened, but most of the time what it does is spit grime in our eyes to realize just how dead-serious things could get in the world. How everything is photographed also seems to be the key that leads to the sullenness of the atmosphere. The cinematography of this film is just wonderful, but how it captures and frames the locations really is more than what it already is. Sometimes, you’d just want to stare at the screen and dig into the beauty of every frame to realize that it holds something on the inside of its exceptional splendor. The aerial shots in particular are breathtaking, most specially noting how it serves an importance in showing off the beauty behind the grim, ugly topics in its narrative.


The investigation that it stages onscreen is quite juicy and enticing. It isn’t exactly a mindf*cker, but with the film bearing qualities similar to such, you’d think that it is.  With the thickly layered themes playing a huge role in making this thriller an inviting one, it becomes outstanding for containing everything on a certain “feel”-making everything more grim than it looks. Marshland fastens you in for a deeply entertaining tale of crime with just the right dosage of everything to get you interested and thrilled for what you’re about to see. Fans of detective thrillers shall surely admire this stylistic thriller bound in realism and atmosphere.


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