Review: The Aura

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Esteban Espinosa (Ricardo Darin) is an unassuming taxidermist who dreams about trying a more daring line of work.
Specifically, he’s obsessed with the idea of planning the perfect crime. Then, while on a hunting trip far away from home, the repressed introvert gets his chance after he accidentally shoots a man about to participate in the robbery of an armored car.

Assuming the crook’s identity, Esteban tricks the dead guys’ gang into allowing him to join the conspiracy. But what he doesn’t reveal is that he suffers from epilepsy, and suffers from seizures, especially when under stress.

This set of developments introduces the audience to The Aura, a psychological thriller set primarily in the Patagonian forest. The film was written and directed by the late Fabian Bielinsky (Nine Queens), who passed away prematurely of a heart attack just this past June.

Here, Bielinsky posthumously proves himself a master at maintaining tension after establishing an intriguing premise by presenting his paradoxical protagonist as a bundle of contradictions whose bravado begins to crumble the closer he comes to D-Day. For when Esteban realizes he’s in over his head, it’s too late to back out since murder and betrayal has already come into play.

The Aura appears to have been inspired by a multi-layered French mystery, Man on a Train (2002), a quirky character study from Patrice Leconte about a nerdy, retired teacher who finds befriends a bank robber about to pull off a heist. Still, this flick easily stands on its own, between Esteban’s unique idiosyncrasies and the distinctly Argentine locations. The film’s only flaw lies with its editing, as it includes about 30 minutes of inconsequential footage which could have hit the cutting room floor without compromising the quality of the cinematic experience.

A wannabe gangster with overwhelming regret enveloped in a whirlwind of terror.

Very good (2.5 Black Stars). Unrated. In Spanish with subtitles. Running time: 133 minutes. Studio: IFC First Take

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