Review of The Summit (La Cordillera), directed by Santiago Mitre. Argentina / Chile / France.
One of the most anticipated movies of the year in Argentina, The Summit tries to be something of a political thriller ala House of Cards while at the same time combining psychological horror movies like The Exorcist (1973) and The Shining (1980). Unfortunately, the pretentiousness of the screenplay does not net a satisfying result up there on the big screen.
Ricardo Darín plays Argentinian president Hernán Blanco, who finds himself in the eye of the storm when his former son in law threatens him with accusations of corruption. While him and his staff are trying to think of how to deal with the situation, the president is invited to a very important political summit taking place on the Chilean Andes range, where Latin American countries will be discusing the creation of a brand new oil association led by the president of Brazil.
The president of Argentina faces two parallel conflicts: on the one hand there’s his troubled daughter Marina (Dolores Fonzi), whom he invites to join him in the Chilean summit and winds up in a state, and on the other hand there’s the pressure of making the right choices in between the dirty plays involved in the mechanics of politics.
The premise seemed promising but failed, to my mind, to deliver the goods. Not only does the film fail to give some kind of ideological reflection upon politics and corruption but, it also lacks the benefit of a well-structured story.
As I metioned, the elements for an interesting plot are there but for some reason director and co-writer Santiago Mitre wasn’t able to develop them properly. Instead of a political thriller that makes aesthethic and argumental references to films and series such as The Shining and House of Cards you get a deformed movie… a senseless mashup of various storylines that supposedly contribute to narrative tension but end up creating a sort of inarticulate structure and boring plot. A movie that tries to be many movies simultaneously and doesn’t let any of the storylines evolve properly. In fact, the whole picture is a series of false or erroneously-placed argumentative seeds that you expect to harvest eventually but are cut off or dissappear without any logic at all.
If I had to make an analogy I would say that the film itself functions pretty much like a corrupt political leader. The kind that promises you all sorts of things just to get on your good side, but at the end of the day doesn’t deliver on any of them.
The film is beautifully shot and Darín’s performance is pretty tight, though not extraordinary. His character seems flat most of the time and just right at the end he changes into something darker but then the movies ends and we don’t see more of that transformation. A poorly developed character doesn’t make justice to such a talented actor.
The same thing happens with all of the characters really. Dolores Fonzi plays the daughter of the Argentinian president and even though her beauty and her intensity as an actress help the character, her storyline seems out of place and doesn’t have any reason to be there – none of it has any real incidence on the main conflict at all.
The bling sorrounding the film: the photography, Christian Slater’s brief appeareance, and the soundtrack ressembling Penderecki’s “Polimorphia“. But in all it all feels like political propaganda, deviating the public’s attention from the real issues and intentions behind a political figure. In the case of the film, all of that hides the fact that the characters in The Summit are not going anywhere. They really have no objectives or forces properly set up to make them act.
Maybe that was the director’s intention: to make a film that’s hollow and disorganized yet covered with glamour and a big budget. A film that lies and disappoints as much as political leaders do to their people.
Iñaki Oñate / Writer (Quito, Ecuador – 1988) Iñaki resides in Buenos Aires, where he studied film directing at Universidad del Cine. His short films have been part of the official selection at the New York, La Habana and Cannes festivals. He’s currently developing his first feature film with his own independent production company, Undergofilms. He also works in music and art illustration.