Sunday, November 04, 2018


I joke a bit in the opening about how one of the things that got brought up in the pitches for Museo during other recent movies at the Brattle mentioned how, in real life, the stolen artifacts wound up sitting in the thieves' closets for a few years, but you can kind of see why the film compacts that: It would involve a chunk of the movie to be built around things not happening, and that's a tough thing to do, especially since it would probably involve getting into how the model for Juan didn't end up as just the confused idealist the film saw him as.

It's still a neat story, though, and I liked the opening that called it a "replica". I've been to enough museums that had replicas alongside actual artifacts to identify with how, in some ways, it doesn't really matter with them behind glass, but one must be aware of the fact that things change in the recreation. It's at times a little too interested in the fact of how the story is being imperfectly told versus telling the story, but the ambition is nice.

I must admit to rolling my eyes a bit when I saw the "YouTube Originals" logo at the start, and not just because I have a hard time associating YouTube with feature-length material to start with. How many subscription services are going to be getting into the original content/indie pick-up game, because I figure there might be a point of diminishing returns. I'm happily paying for Prime, less happily for CBS All Access, and will probably break down and get Netflix, but Hulu and YouTube Red are probably a tier below Prime & Netflix, and how many people are going to shell out for them on a monthly basis to get access to fewer originals, and how many are even going to know about those originals unless they surface in theaters like this one did. It's tough for me to think that this sequestration ends up anywhere good, unless you've got the money to subscribe to everything, just in case.

Museo (aka Museum)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 November 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

Oddly enough, the part of the true story which inspired Museo that most seemed to intrigue the people waiting in line for the film - that the artifacts stolen just sat in the thieves' houses for years - doesn't really factor into it; the circumstances that lead to that are important, but it's almost gilding the lily. The point is made without that. And, as the opening credits remind the audience, this is just a "replica of the original" events.

In this version, the two men who robbed Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology in 1985 are Juan Nuñez (Gael García Bernal) and Benjamin Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris), both studying to be veterinarians and in some ways defined by their fathers: Ben's is very sick and requires constant attention, while Juan is a bit of a disappointment, as both father and grandfather were doctors and "Shorty" never seems to commit to much. A summer job working in the museum (for weed money, according to Ben's narration) gave Juan an inside view of its lax security, enough to come up with a plan to rob the place, which they do on Christmas Eve. They're counting on Bosco "Chunuc" Huerta (Bernardo Velasco), a tour guide at the Mayan pyramids, to help them fence their take, but the 140 artifacts they stole are almost impossible to move.

The heist that serves as the movie's centerpiece is an all-time great, as silent and detailed as the one in Rififi, though not exactly going for the same kind of tension. Writer/director Alonso Ruiz Palacios embellishes what happened, in large part to put the focus on Juan and Ben more than the lack of security that enabled them, though that being a factor is inescapable. Ruiz Palacios skips over a lot of the standard pieces of this sort of caper - no casing the museum or recruiting the team, a trip to the hardware store the only prelude to the main event - but still builds a nifty moment or two before and after, even if it's just Juan kind of being a jerk at Christmas dinner. The movie moves well enough both during the robbery and on either side that the relatively simple action doesn't seem stretched, and the film marinates in the delightful irony that pulling off the main part of the plan doesn't mean they get anywhere with seemingly easier stages.

Full review at EFC.

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