Best known for his work as cinematographer on Brad Anderson’s The Machinist (2004) and Transsiberian (2008), Lock Up (2010) is a suitably dark and gritty directorial debut from Spanish filmmaker, Xavi Giménez.
Centring on the destructive relationship between father, Luis (Adolfo Fernández), and son, Fran (Marcel Borràs), the film plays out like an Orwellian nightmare as we see Luis – in a desperate attempt to salvage a loving relationship with his son – enrol Fran in an “education” centre for juvenile delinquents.
After being violently dragged from his bed, Fran arrives at “Tranquillity Valley” but from what at first appears to be a tough, military-style boot-camp soon evolves into a dystopian vision of totalitarian power and abusive regime – this place isn’t concerned with rehabilitation and redemption, more rather psychologically maiming and disenfranchising its subjects.
Although Luis believes he is doing the right thing, the truth is he doesn’t know everything he should about the school’s methodology. Outraged by his father’s betrayal, Fran will do his best to show everyone at the school that he is not about to give in, but the school’s speciality is to precisely fight that kind of behaviour, resulting in a dark and brutal story of conflict and desperation.
Tonally reminiscent of Oliver Hirschbiegel’s excellent Das Experiment (2001), Giménez’s debut feature is dark and moody in its execution and at times is imbued with a pounding visceral energy. Being Orwellian in nature, the script is undeniably heavily influenced by 1984, and the day-to-day lives of the centre’s young inhabitants are viewed via tense, taut and hard-hitting sequences of torture, desperation and sorrow.
On occasion the film does teeter on the banal but Fernandez and Borras are commendable in the respective roles, perhaps falling short in delivering truly spellbinding performances as the closing scene unfortunately lacks a palpable sense of pathos, notwithstanding its honesty. Elsewhere, Giménez does what comes naturally to him and frames the film with precision and grace and the soundtrack is fittingly frenetic.
The ending is seemingly bathetic in comparison to the pounding energy of the opening half but with Lock Up Giménez has created an admirable film with a dark heart and soul.