Alberto Rodriguez opens his blistering Spanish neo noir, La Isla Minima, with a series of breathtaking drone shots of the Guadalquivar Marshes, where is crime opus unfolds. These birds-eye-view images set the tone perfectly; from such a great height anything can look peaceful, beautiful, but once we get a closer look we see there is menace and danger lurking in the reeds.
In many ways a standard police procedural, a couple of bickering, big city cops are set out to the sticks, reluctantly forced together in order to bring a serial killer to justice. Rodriguez’s masterstoke is setting the film in Spain in 1980, a country still very much divided by the recent civil war. His two lead detectives don’t just have the typical good cop/bad cop sparring relationship, but rather their jarring philosophies reflect the differing attitudes of the country as a whole.
This dynamic allows for explosive chemistry between the young idealistic Pedro (Raul Arevalo), and old-timer Juan (Javier Gutierrez), who may or may not have fascists leanings. Their chemistry, along with the blistering cinematography elevates Marshland from the Spanish True Detective label it was lazily assigned, to one of the most striking efforts of the year.