It's the hot summer of 2011 in Madrid. Pope Benedict is visiting the city, with thousands of pilgrims from all over the world in town to greet him. Anti-austerity protests are also taking place in the Spanish capital, often-times boiling over as tempers flare on the hot city streets.
Against this backdrop, police inspectors Javier Alfaro (Roberto Àlamo) and Luis Velarde (Antonio de la Torre) come upon the brutal murder of an elderly woman. They soon catch another case and realise a serial killer is at work. With all the tourists visiting and media attention on the city, a serial killer murdering elderly women is the last thing the authorities want.
So as the body count grows, Alfaro and Velarde are ordered to catch the murderer fast. The two detectives are unlikely match: Alfaro is a hot-head, quick to vent his displeasure with others, and Velarde is a quiet perfectionist weighed down heavily by his awkward stutter. As the pair desperately chase the killer through the graffiti-covered laneways of central Madrid, the need to find the killer becomes urgent and unbearable. Both men have their own problems outside of work, and as they work their case, they realise the similarities that exist between themselves and the serial killer they are pursuing.
Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, May God Save Us was written by Sorogoyen and Isabel Pena. The film renders a Madrid that's gritty, noisy and very hot; the streets sweltering, the apartments where people live, dark and stuffy. The cinematography is wonderful, at first tight on its subjects as they go about their work, before switching to wider and more expansive as more about the case is revealed. The score also adds to the film, as does the constant hum of the city which whirrs relentlessly in the background.
The two lead performances are wonderful. Roberto Àlamo's Alfaro is a big hulk of a man, constantly on the edge of overwhelming anger and completely overbearing to his colleagues. Alfaro is concerned only with solving the case, even if it means losing everything else. And although Antonio de la Torre portrays Velarde as the exact opposite - a cop who is thorough and exacting, studying patiently until receiving the clue that will crack the case - the two detectives share a common cause.
May God Save Us is a classy thriller. Much of the plot involves travels down some well-worn roads, but stylish film-making, an inventive context and backdrop, and a number of great performances raise it up a notch from similar fare.
'May God Save Us (Que Dios Nos Perdone) is playing nationally as part of the Spanish Film Festival.
Find information on session times, locations and tickets here.