The Bomb (La Bomba): Film Review

Would-be thriller is interesting, but has remarkably little suspense.

A boy running late inadvertently hops in a Buenos Aires cab full of explosives.

MONTREAL — Locking two strangers in a car full of explosives and finding remarkably little suspense within, Sergio Bizzio's La Bomba is more interested in telling two backstories of lies and betrayal than in conveying the present-tense danger its protagonists are in. Involving up to a point, the picture will ultimately feel like a shaggy-dog story to many viewers and ends on a sour note unlikely to generate good word-of-mouth at fests.

Having won a literary competition with a graphic-novel memoir, teenager Walter (Alan Daicz) sets out from the provinces with his mother to present the book in Buenos Aires. Having accidentally split up with her in transit, the boy arrives in the city late and hops in a cab intending to catch up with her.

It's the wrong cab. Frantic when Walter gets in, the driver (Pablo Cedron) shouts at him to get out, then locks him inside when the kid sees the source of his anxiety: Piles of explosives in the floorboard, wired up to the horn on the steering wheel. (Actually, the driver shouts "get down!," a confusingly unidiomatic bit of subtitle translation that continues through the film.)

This is no Speed-like hostage situation, we learn, but an intended suicide bombing whose target and rationale the film takes its time revealing. Though desperate to get out alive -- and perhaps even more eager to convince his mother he's not ditching the event out of shyness -- Walter quickly calms down enough to try talking his host out of whatever he intends to do. For his part, the driver (also named Walter, we learn) nervously circles the neighborhood of the building he wants to blow up while grudgingly telling the boy his story.

Bizzio, a novelist and screenwriter who has directed a feature and a telefilm before this, has too much faith in his premise: Instead of using cinematic language to create suspense or at least sustain some tension over the course of the film, he assumes we're on the hook already and that he can put the car on autopilot while telling his tales. Rather than bring players from these stories into the present tense in ways that might involve us, he lets narration and flashbacks do the work. The result is a watchable but hardly captivating picture whose end is a bad gimmick and whose biggest surprise is a shot of celebrated Argentine author Cesar Aira, speaking at the literary event in praise of young Walter's memoir.

Production Company: Historias Cinematograficas

Cast: Jore Marrale, Alan Daicz, Romina Gaetani, Pablo Cedron, Guadalupe Docampo, Andrea Garrote

Director-Screenwriter: Sergio Bizzio

Producer: Lucia Puenzo

Director of photography: Nicolas Puenzo

Music: Blas Bizzio

Editor: Andres Tambornino

No rating, 72 minutes