The Nameless (1999) Movie Review

Jaume Balaguero’s The Nameless is a stylish psychological thriller that owes more than just a cursory homage to the works of American director David Fincher, who has revolutionize the way films are shot with his neon colors and pale color-tinted gels. Fincher’s works on movies like Fight Club, The Game, and most influential of all, Seven, has been copied over and over by various people around the world. This is not to say writer/director Balaguero does not have a distinctive voice, but it should be noted that his 1999’s The Nameless owes more than a passing resemblance to Fincher’s works.

The Nameless opens with the apparently discovery of a body belonging to Angela, a pre-teen who has been missing for quite some time. Her parents, especially her mother Claudia (Emma Vilarasau), are expecting the worst when the phone call finally arrives from the police. The detective on the case is Bruno (Karra Elejalde), a long-time veteran who specializes in missing persons cases. Fast-forward 5 years, and Bruno has since retired from the force because of personal tragedies stemming from the death of his wife a year earlier.

Claudia, on the other hand, has still not gotten over the grief of losing her only daughter, and she has since separated from her husband as a result. One day, the phone rings again, and a young, female voice declaring herself to be Claudia’s daughter, Angela, tells her mother that she’s alive and well and being held captive by some people and please, her mother must rescue her before it’s too late…

For much of The Nameless, I was very struck by the movie’s visuals. The movie looks nice, even when it’s highlighted by pale colors. Of course it helps that the movie’s lead, Emma Vilarasau, is a highly emotive actress, and relays her grief and guilt to us with sad eyes. Emma’s Claudia is so far from getting over her loss that her current life is in shambles until the phone call comes, pushing her back into the hunt for her daughter.

Claudia goes to the only person who is willing to listen, Bruno, and the two embark on a personal quest to locate Angela before it’s too late. Until the phone call, the movie moves very slowly, gradually bringing us back into Claudia’s life as she struggles through a simple day. The same is true for Bruno, who finds his life aimless without work or his deceased wife, and finds a measure of purpose in helping the distraught Claudia.

The movie’s main plot, on the other hand, left me bored. The thrust of the movie is that Angela is in the hands of some very dangerous people who may or may not be doing God knows what to her at the moment. The film is concerned with bodily mutilations and a group of people with histories dating back to Nazi Germany, during the concentration camps and experiments on Jews. (I would go on, but it’s all very tedious and not nearly as intriguing as the filmmakers thought. Or at the very least, wasn’t nearly as interesting as portrayed in the film.)

About halfway into the film, a reporter named Quiroga (Tristan Ulloa) gets into the act, but his only real purpose for existing is to give exposition on the movie’s heavy plot background. Of course, Quiroga’s expositions are necessary because up to its halfway point The Nameless has been completely disinterested in approaching its own main plot.

The ending is, well…the ending is a little stupid. I was already disappointed with Balaguero’s insinuations that something supernatural was going on, but the ending left me flat. The villain must have James Bond-itis because he shows up at the very end to deliver a ridiculous explanation as to why things were happening. The explanations seem to go on endlessly, and because the movie was so unconcern with approaching its own main plot until halfway through, there is a lot of explaining to do. At least James Bonds’ villains had the decency to show up at various points throughout the movie instead of making a glorified cameo at the end.

If not for some inspiring visuals and a highly effective and involving performance by lead Emma Vilarasau, this movie wouldn’t be worth a casual glance. It’s lucky to have what it has, because it certainly proves to be a strangely fruitless endeavor by movie’s end.

Jaume Balaguero (director) / Jaume Balaguero, Ramsey Campbell (screenplay)
CAST: Emma Vilarasau …. Claudia
Karra Elejalde …. Bruno Massera
Tristan Ulloa …. Quiroga
Toni Sevilla …. Franco
Brendan Price …. Marc Gifford

Buy The Nameless on DVD