7 Prisoners ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
An impoverished teen seeking to escape the clutches of a human trafficker must weigh living up to his moral code against his struggle to survive. New on Netflix.
Mateus, a young boy from a very poor family somewhere in the Brazilian countryside, accepts a job in São Paolo, five hours from where he lives.
With high dreams, hoping to be able to provide for his family, he is transported into the city, together with six other teenage boys, to start working in a scrapyard.
Once they get there they’ll soon realise that not only the job is essentially forced labour. Their brutal master treats them like slaves and has no intention of paying them or letting them leave (hence the title of the film).
I don’t need to tell you more for you to understand that this is not going to be an easy watch. The fact that it’s filmed mostly with a handheld camera, on real grungy locations and it’s packed with understated and realistic performances adds a terrifying sense of immediacy that makes it feel like a documentary.
It is a stark and an unflinching look at modern day slavery and human trafficking in a city which seems to be built on exploitation: the camera travelling across hundreds of copper wires going from building to building (the same wires that the seven prisoners have painstakingly been working on, stripping them and recycling them) says it all.
I’m making it sound like this could be very heavy work, but actually the film is rather gripping, built like a thriller and quite short too (always a plus in my book).
Its power is undeniable and just when you think you know where it’s going, it suddenly surprises you by taking unexpected turns, as the film uncovers layers of a pyramid of hierarchies where somebody is always on top of somebody else.
It is certainly an uncomfortable watch (though never gratuitous), but while this is not a happy film, it is also a timely and important one that should be seen and discussed. It could easily become subject of award talks, if it wasn’t for its niche subject and tiny budget.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.
7 Prisoners is now available on Netflix.
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