Viggo's best laid plans
Film Review: Everybody Has A Plan (No cert, IFI, 118 minutes) 3 STARS
Director: Ana Piterbarg Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Soledad Villamil, Daniel Fanego, Sofia Gala Castiglione.
The Scarlet Pimpernel of A-list actors, Viggo Mortensen is often sought but seldom seen. He acts sporadically these days, and at one point was talking about retiring from film altogether. But when he does work, he tends to choose interesting projects and, as he's proved recently in films like Eastern Promises and The Road, Mortensen on his day is as compelling a screen actor as anyone. Viggo's no dummy either: he speaks fluent Danish and Spanish, and it's the latter language he gets to show off in Ana Piterberg's Argentine crime thriller.
In Everybody has a Plan, Mortensen plays not one but two Argentines, twin brothers whose lives have led them down very different paths. Augustin is a distinguished but emotionally catatonic Buenos Aires paediatrician whose fear of commitment has set him at odds with his wife. They can't have kids and she wants to adopt, but he seems horrified by the prospect of parenthood and obfuscates passive-aggressively until she leaves him.
But Augustin's origins were not so lofty. He grew up by a mosquito-ridden river in the wilds of the Tigre Delta; his twin brother Pedro stayed there, and has drifted into a life of petty crime. When Pedro comes to visit Augustin, he tells his brother he has terminal cancer and asks his help in ending it all. And although Augustin is initially repulsed by the idea of killing his sibling, he slowly begins to see a chance to destroy his old self and begin his life anew.
When Augustin turns up in the Tigre Delta posing as Pedro, he finds out that his brother was mixed up in more than just petty crime. And a proxy friendship with a vulnerable young woman called Rosa shakes him from his self-absorbed torpor.
With its muted soundtrack, slow pacing and moody long shots along misty rivers, Ana Piterbarg's debut feature has a stately, arthouse feel.
But its plot has all the vulgar potential of a 1940s noir potboiler: Augustin, after all, is a man posing as another man in a harsh landscape crawling with violent criminals.
Piterbarg establishes that promising premise admirably and stylishly, and Mortensen cleverly and unfussily uses voice and physique to make the brothers easily distinguishable.
But once the film's schema has been revealed and Augustin takes to the river, Everybody has a Plan fizzles out slowly and disappointingly, and the protagonist's vacillations between decency and indifference are not ultimately interesting enough to keep the drama going.