BFI LFF: The Summit (La Cordillera) (2017)

Santiago Mitre’s political thriller The Summit is a prescient tale of high-level corruption.

High Ambition

by Alexa Dalby

The Summit

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

In a mountain retreat in the Andes, a summit meeting of South American heads of state is taking place under the chair of the Chilean president (Paulina Garcia). Attending is the newly elected President of Argentina, previously a city mayor with no experience at such a high level – both literally and metaphorically. In a stroke of prescience by director Santiago Mitre and his co-screenwriter Mariano Llinás that pre-dates the election of another untested president, he has a daughter married to a son-in-law who is about to be implicated in a financial scandal. The news is due to hit the fan during the summit – but this inconvenient revelation has to be suppressed so as not to derail the all-important summit, at which a new Southern Oil Alliance has to be agreed.

The introduction of Christian Slater as a patronising American government fixer, playing a dirty behind-the-scenes game to influence discussions and further America’s oil interests gives an insight into the machinations of how these things are done. And novice president Hernan Blanco (a blank sheet), played with a teasing ambiguity by Ricardo Darin, starts to show that he more devious than anyone, least of all his colleagues, expects. His troubled daughter Marina (Dolores Fonzi) apparently holds the key to a suppressed event in Blanco’s past that could destroy him and in a Hitchcockian scene she starts to reveal it under hypnosis – but did it really happen or is it a false memory? Erica Rivas (Wild Tales) is briskly professional as Blanco’s omnipresent, indispensable aide Luisa.

Mitre’s political thriller is at times gripping as it unfolds, though also at times confusing, but very well worth a watch.

The Summit premiered at the 70th Cannes Film Festival and screens at the 61st BFI London Film Festival on 4, 5 and 15 October 2017.

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