Part mystery, part thriller, Silencio takes a long, hard look at loss and grief, all while maintaining that there’s still a little bit of mystery in them hills.
The film begins in 1970, in the Mexican desert. A missile has mistakenly crashed into an area known as the “Zone of Silence.” According to legend, the zone is an area of the desert where no radio signals function. Silencio enhances this mythology a bit further by claiming that the zone is also home to mutated animals and plants, and that it’s a vortex for meteors. When the missile hits the zone, a team donning hazmat suits are brought in to clean up any hazardous material showered by the weapon.
James (John Noble from Fringe) and Peter (here Nic Jackman, though later played by Rupert Graves), are two members of the cleanup team. James discovers a strange rock that may or may not be radioactive. He brings the stone to his makeshift laboratory and gets to testing. It’s clear in his dialogue with Peter that he has just had some major personal trauma. James doesn’t want to talk about it, but when the clock strikes 3:33 AM and he’s touching that newly discovered stone, he must confront the tragedy head-on.
The stone is magic. Not in a wizards and dragons sort of way. Rather, it transports James back to the moment of his tragedy, and he’s able to change the course of his personal history there. When we’re brought up to the present day, whatever he did back in 1970 changed James’s life for the better. But with great power comes great headaches, and he can’t keep that magic stone to himself forever.
Though James and the stone are the major catalysts for the plot of Silencio, the film belongs to his granddaughter, Ana (Melina Matthews). She’s the one who must sort out the mess created by James, and she’s the one who has the most to lose.
The performances sometimes flirt with melodramatic, but given the grave consequences of people’s actions, that flourish is understandable. Overall, the film is carried heavily by the involved plot and the rules of the stone. Given the magical properties of the stone, it’s important not to make any wrong moves with it. Silencio could have found a more elegant way of letting Ana and the audience learn of its powers and regulations rather than simply having Peter tell us. However, the straight exposition is efficient shorthand and it helps keep the film moving at a brisk pace.
A swiftly moving, emotionally heavy, and inventive plot all make Silencio a damn fine fantastical mystery.