Captain Alatriste: A flawless performance from Spanish director-writer Agustin Diaz Yanes on every level: cinematography, talent, editing, sound. Perhaps, the incredible original score by Roque Banos revels the director's accomplished hand in a particular way. The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. However, the music perhaps more than other elements made the entire experience universal, because the director carried every beat across cultures through the score.
It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that this film may not receive its day in the various winner's circle amongst its peers. It is unlikely an American actor would take home the top recognition at the Spanish Goya Awards, despite the deserved performance. Viggo Mortensen carried the role of Diego Alatriste y Tenorio to perfection. Right down to small but highly effective ways of expressing an emotion, Mortensen's portrayal of this 17th century Spanish soldier-turned-mercenary is his best work to date topping even his stellar performance in the 2004 release of Hidalgo.
And the same is true in the Best Film category. Even if foreign films were nominated for the mainstream best picture award at the Academy Awards, it is not likely this beautiful series of faultless frames would win because a Spanish film would not take precedence at an American awards ceremony. But above all these, Agustín Díaz Yanes deserves the recognition amongst his peers across all cultures for his work on what so many have referred to as a swashbuckling film but in truth is much deeper than a mere adventure story.
Agustín Díaz Yanes work with young Spanish talent Unax Ugalde and Elena Anaya is just one more point in case that the Goya Best Director Award went to the wrong choice. Anaya's portrayal of Angélica's love for Ugalde's character Íñigo's nearly stole the entire show. Anaya portrayed an incredibly deep set of emotions dictated to by the life of a court lady. The scene where Íñigo smells the sweet in Angélica's hair risking the fury of the court was executed so well one did not need subtitles whatsoever. The passionate love between the characters and Angélica's fight not to resist but having to hide her feelings for Íñigo was powerfully felt. And when Íñigo waits for his love who never arrives, the emotional impact from Ugalde's portrayal of Íñigo's deep dive into loneliness was sweet potent mastery.
Ariadna Gil's vision of María de Castro, Alatriste's love he feels so strongly for that he would kill any man who would touch her if she was his and his alone, was brought to perfection at the syphilis hospital scene. Maria is crushed down to the level of the peasant after having contracted the deadly disease. And Diego, lost without his lover, visits Maria in her lowest of states. But instead of rejecting her in her diseased state, he reaches for her hand. Maria at first connects but pulls back in shame. But rather than discarding her, Diego wraps her in a necklace he bought for Maria with his only money. He then kisses her, accepting her despite her flaws. But Maria is not always loved by the audience. She at times is intensely hated by the viewer for her deep betrayal, albeit forced, of Diego. True love never betrays its object. And once the betrayal was complete, Maria now finds she too truly loves Diego.
But perhaps the most impactful moment among the many is when Diego is on the battlefield. In a slow motion shot of Diego leading the regiment to its ill fate, his companions go down on either side of him. Then Diego is also shot. He falters for a brief moment but courageously leads his fellow man onward to death.
The action is brutal and disturbing but realistic of the times and methods of warfare. The brotherhood of men in battle transcends centuries. The ruthless Court and Church betrayals, selfishness and pursuit of power may have been taken from history but is applicable today. Without a doubt, this Spanish epic will never receive enough of its due this year. Perhaps it will become a model to study and thus become timeless then receiving its true worth and recognition.