EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN: all about Viggo

My most surreal experience at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival occurred during the screening of EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN.

Everybody Has A Plan

Everybody Has A Plan

At one point in this movie, there are two Viggo Mortensens on the screen; he plays twin brothers. And the actual Viggo Mortensen, who was attending the Toronto premiere of the movie, was in the seat directly behind me. There were literally Viggo Mortensens everywhere I looked. Two full-screen Viggos in front of me, and the real-life one behind me. Mortensen is somebody I have long respected as an actor, from his The Indian Runner days in the early nineties, through his remarkable run of David Cronenberg films (A History Of Violence, Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method) and of course his most visible turn in the Lord of the Rings franchise. Is there such a thing as too much Viggo? Based on that surreal moment at the Toronto screening, I am happy to report, the answer is ‘no’.

EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN (Todos Tenemos Un Plan),  an Argentinian film, takes film noir and carries it through its fullest possibilities.

Mortensen plays the dual roles of Agustin, a well to do Buenos Aires pediatrician who is coming untethered from his wife, and Pedro, the far less fortunate twin brother living in the impoverished water-logged islands of El Tigre delta who has his hands dirty with involvement with the local crime leader. The swampy islands in the movie bear a striking resemblance to the setting of the recent Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

Throw into this story Pedro’s younger lover, hard-scrabble criminals who will stop at nothing to recover lost money, switched identities, and bee-keeping as a metaphor for the perils of getting too close to something dangerous – and you have a viscous, steaming brew of film noir set in South America. To reveal too much more about the plot is to take away from its pleasures. Suffice it to say that after one brother is forced to take on the identity of the other, he momentously fails to appreciate the nightmare he is walking into. The film has a brooding slow burn that makes the sporadic, sudden bursts of brutal violence that much more effective when they occur. Rigidly realistic with the look of the region where the story is set, the cinematography of the scenes in the El Tigre islands in particular are effective; the film has a very definite sense of geography. There is also a studied realism to the emotional connections between the main characters – who are complex, irrational and damaged, and all the more believable because of that; this film is miles away from the traditional movie experience. All of which is surprising considering that this is only the first film from the young director Ana Piterbarg.

Mortensen has to do much of the heavy-lifting here, being in practically every scene, and in this Spanish-language movie he demonstrates that he is just as compelling an actor in any language. Just like in the film, during the Q and A session after the screening, Mortensen performed double-duty. While on stage he translated audience questions into Spanish for his director. And then translated what she had to say back into English for the audience. Lets see some other actors who claim versatility match that.

Using the familiar premise of mixed-identity as only the springboard to tell a complex, violent, obsessive crime story, this film will particularly resonate for those seeking respite from the bland Hollywood fare. EVERYBODY HAS A PLAN opens in New York City and Los Angeles this Friday, March 22, 2013 with wider national release in the following weeks.

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