Starring Benicio Del Toro. In English, Spanish, French, Bosnian, and Serbian, with English subtitles. Rated PG.
Benicio Del Toro, who often resembles a Brad Pitt for whom life hasn’t gone quite so swimmingly, is effortlessly charismatic as Mambrú, a beleaguered Puerto Rican aid worker who just wants to go home. Meanwhile, though, he has to solve a few more problems in the course of a day(ish) near the end of the 1990s Balkan conflict.
He does this alongside an adrenaline-junkie pal called simply B, played by Tim Robbins, his white hair flopping over a Springsteen bandanna. They’re saddled with a naive sanitation expert (The Princess of Montpensier’s Mélanie Thierry), embarking on her first mission in the unnamed mountain country. (It looks like Kosovo but is actually Spain.) Also aboard their twin Land Rovers, at times, are a cynical translator (Bosnia’s Fedja Stukan), who explains that this scrubby area is known for “yogurt and a sense of humour”, and a veteran UN crisis evaluator (former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko) who previously had an unfortunate fling with Mambrú.
Written by director Fernando León de Aranoa (Familia) and adapted from a novel by former Doctors Without Borders head Paula Farias, the script tells us that Mambrú only has one week left on his contract. Our uh-oh flags go up immediately, but no one gets killed or even injured during the film’s 100-minute duration—except for the “fat fuck” someone previously threw in a rural well, for revenge or to Michiganize the water supply. Still, the tension remains high, thanks to the alien settings, a harshly ironic rock score, and running patter that tries a little too hard to stay jokey. Like its subjects, the movie fails to accomplish all that much, but it does more good than harm.