Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Film Review: Zinzana is an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller

This edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller (the international title of which is Rattle the Cage) has already impressed audiences and picked up glowing reviews at festivals in the UK and USA.
Zinzana. Courtesy DIFF
Zinzana. Courtesy DIFF

Zinzana (Rattle the Cage)

Directed by: Majid Al Ansari

Starring: Saleh Bakri, Ali Suliman

Four stars

Drop whatever else you have planned and go and see Zinzana tonight – it just might be the future of regional cinema.

This edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller (the international title of which is Rattle the Cage) has already impressed audiences and picked up glowing reviews at festivals in the UK and USA.

It has been an unprecedented response for an Emirati film – precisely because there’s very little “Emirati” about it.

Sure, in production terms it as local as it comes – the dialogue is in Arabic, and produced by Abu Dhabi’s Image Nation – but in terms of concept, style and ­influences, it is torn straight from the Hollywood, genre-flick rule book.

Zinzana is a classic game of confined-space cat and mouse, transplanted to an exotic but undefined “somewhere in Arabia” location (it was filmed in Jordan, where the movie was co-produced).

Palestinian Saleh Bakri (The Band’s Visit, Salvo) plays Talal, an alcoholic layabout locked up in a remote prison after a ­rowdy night of fighting.

He is joined by countryman Ali Suliman (Paradise Now), a deranged impostor who takes over the titular jail (for initially unclear reasons) and puts his captive through pulse-racing ordeals of torture, ­psychological and physical – instead of cat and mouse, it’s drug-snorting psychopath versus helpless, washed-up divorcee.

All the action takes place within the four walls of the prison, and while a few other characters come and go – Yasa’s ditzy assistant jailer offers welcome comic respite – the burden of carrying the movie falls on the two leads.

And carry it they do – with gusto.

Suliman – so often the go-to guy when Hollywood is casting Arab characters (Body of Lies, Lone Survivor) – feasts on the schizophrenic shifts of his charming and terrifying ­character.

Having worked on previous high-profile UAE productions Sea Shadow, Djinn and From A to B, Emirati Majid Al Ansari brings an impressively assured technical prowess to the ­production, his feature film directorial debut.

In the mould of claustrophobic films such as Phone Booth or Panic Room, Zinzana’s single location is no cheap gimmick, but the film’s core narrative device.

In making this work, ­Brussels-based ­cinematographer ­Colin Lévêque’s consistently ­inventive work is paramount – he highlights the prison’s ­claustrophobic atmosphere, but the audience certainly won’t be bored while locked up in such a confined space with Talal.

For Al Ansari and his cast and crew, Zinzana represents more than just a personal triumph, but a shining example of what UAE cinema can achieve when its horizons are broadened.

Zinzana is out now in cinemas. There is also a Diff gala screening at Madinat Arena tonight at 6pm (Dh100), with an encore Diff screening at Mall of the Emirates on Saturday at 10pm (Dh35)

Updated: December 9, 2015 04:00 AM

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