Death and the Compass

Watch Death and the Compass

  • 1995
  • 1 hr 36 min

Death and the Compass is a tense and complex neo-noir thriller from 1992, directed by Alex Cox and starring Peter Boyle, Miguel Sandoval, and Christopher Eccleston. Set in an unidentified Spanish-speaking city, the film explores themes of revenge, corruption, and the nature of truth, all set against a backdrop of labyrinthine streets and sinister architecture.

Boyle plays the role of Lönnrot, a veteran detective who becomes obsessed with a series of ritualistic murders committed by a mysterious figure known as Red Scharlach. As Lönnrot delves deeper into the case, he realizes that the murders seem to be following a pattern based on the Kabbalah, a mystical system of Jewish thought. He enlists the help of Zunz, a younger detective played by Sandoval, but their investigation becomes increasingly complicated as they stumble upon a web of corruption involving powerful figures in the city.

As the story unfolds, the audience is drawn into a world of shifting identities and hidden agendas. Eccleston plays the charismatic criminal Treviranus, who seems to be connected to the murders in some way. His scenes are among the most memorable in the film, as he alternates between charming and menacing with ease. Boyle also gives a strong performance as Lönnrot, a man haunted by the sins of his past and struggling to come to terms with his own mortality.

Visually, Death and the Compass is a feast for the eyes. The city is depicted as a dark and labyrinthine place, full of narrow alleys and twisting staircases. The production design is gorgeous, with intricate sets and costumes that evoke a sense of otherworldly dread. The film was shot in Mexico, and the location serves as a perfect stand-in for the unnamed city in which the story takes place.

The screenplay, written by Cox and Tod Davies, is based on a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. The film shares the Argentine author's fascination with metaphysical puzzles and intellectual gamesmanship. It's a film that rewards repeated viewings, as viewers can pick up on clues and connections that they may have missed the first time around.

Overall, Death and the Compass is a stylish and thought-provoking thriller that will appeal to fans of classic film noir and more modern fare like David Fincher's Se7en. With strong performances from the cast and imaginative direction from Cox, it's a great example of how genre storytelling can be elevated by artistic vision. Highly recommended.

Death and the Compass
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 36 min
  • Language