Like being thrust back into a bad dream, Adrián Caetano’s thriller places viewers in the middle of Argentina circa ’77, when junta-sponsored goons rounded up suspected subversives at will. A squad of mustached interrogators shows up at the house of an innocent soccer player (De la Serna) who’s been fingered as a leftist agitator; before the athlete can grasp what’s happening, he’s whisked away to a makeshift detention center. For the next several months, the prisoner is forced to endure sadistic mind games, violent beatings and the occasional waterboarding. (Should our administration still feign cluelessness as to what constitutes torture, let us fill you in: This is what it looks like.) He eventually breaks out, along with other detainees, and flees to safety.
Few would accuse Caetano (A Red Bear) of soft-pedaling the horrors inflicted upon many Argentine citizens or deny that the film’s examination of “justified” brutality isn’t relevant at this particular moment. But despite the use of intertitles (“Day 120”) to keep the sense of dread simmering, Chronicle still feels dramatically inert. The repetitive scenes of abuse lose their power too soon, and even the climactic flight stalls in first gear before it’s barely begun.