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The Last Hour

In 1969, Abimael Guzmán (also known as Chairman Gonzalo) founded The Communist Party of Peru —Shining Path that was based on Marxism-Leninism- Maoism and his own thoughts. It started its war against the government of Peru in 1980 with the goal of overthrowing it and replacing it with New Democracy that would lead eventually to full communism.

The Shining Path was well known for its brutality, being responsible for the death or disappearance of 48,000 people in its reign of terror that ended in 1992 with the arrest of Guzmán. In 2017, Peruvian director Eduardo Mendoza de Echave released a movie called The Final Hour to mark the 25th anniversary of Guzmán’s capture.

The movie follows members of the Peruvian Special Group of Intelligence that has been trying to find Guzmán for the past ten years. The group had put many members of the Shining Path under surveillance and filmed hours of footage of what they suspected to be Guzmán’s safe houses.

Carlos Zambrano (Pietro Sibille) is one of the agents whose life goal is to capture Guzmán and bring him to justice. He’s a workaholic and divorced; his wife is planning to leave the country to a more peaceful place where she could raise their only son without the constant fear of the Shining Path. Zambrano is teamed up with another agent, a former nurse called Gabriela Coronado (Nidia Bermejo) who’s struggling with her own ethical dilemma: what’s the right thing to do when your relative is a member of the Shining Path? As both share the threat of losing a loved one to the same enemy, the two agents become close — which raise suspicion about their loyalty to the cause and threaten their lives.

De Echave succeeds in engaging the viewer of what Peruvians went through during the Shining Path’s reign of terror within simple scenes of total blackouts that went on for days to normal conversations about schools introducing drills for children on how to act when a bomb explodes; besides background scenes that illustrate the government’s counteraction including raids and harassing innocent civilians who were caught between the hammer and the anvil.

His eye for detail is phenomenal, from the set decoration to the character looks that brings back a sudden nostalgia to the uncomplex 90s, as well as the technology used at that time which looks so primitive compared to cutting-edge ones nowadays (e.g., huge walkie-talkies and VHS camcorders hidden in black bin liners).

The action sequence that started with trying to track Guzmán to the final scenes of Operation Victoria where he was seized were intense and captivating. Pietro Sibille’s depiction of Zambrano with all his contradictions is neat. However, Nidia Bermejo comes across as cold in the first few scenes yet her performance starts warming up towards the end.

The movie was to be released on September 12, 2017 to mark the 25th anniversary of Guzmán’s capture in Lima.

For unknown reasons the date was shifted to the 14th instead. Initially, it was to be premiered in 25 cinemas but the number increased to 88 after growing public demand on tickets. In that month, the movie became the 3rd most watched movie — after IT and Earthquake — and a successful national hit in 20 years. It also received many positive reviews as some critics considered it de Echave’s best movie to date, a movie that should be watched by both generations of Peruvians: those who lived and survived the horrors of it and those who only got to hear about it. An interesting and informative period film. Available on Netflix.

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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