Film Review: Silencio

An awesomely dull B-movie about a meteorite fragment that bends reality.
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Somewhere in the barren expanse of Silencio you could root out the basis of a solid “X-Files” episode. It wouldn’t be one of the better ones, mind you, but a spooky glimpse into the otherworldly, nonetheless. Importantly, even though it would take place only somewhat adjacent to reality, by the end it would all make a kind of narrative sense. The same, though, can not be said for Silencio.
 
It begins to some degree like a classic B-movie, in which scraps of scientific reality are welded rudely together to provide the chassis for a fantastical narrative. Here, those scraps are the stuff of many conspiracy theories and urban legends. The so-called “Zone of Silence” is a stretch of lonesome desert in Chihuahua, Mexico where, some claim, communications equipment goes haywire and the odd alien lands. What’s true is that meteorites do seem to hit there on a semi-frequent basis. Also true is that in 1970, when the movie starts, an American rocket went off course and crashed in the Zone of Silence. A massive operation was mounted to remove all the wreckage. Not so true is that the rocket had some kind of nuclear payload which leaked onto a piece of cobalt from a meteorite and formed a magic rock with the power to bend the space-time continuum.
 
One of the researchers on site, James (a darkly hammy John Noble), has a vested interest in that rock, as much of his family had just been killed in a tragic car wreck. After accidentally grabbing the rock without gloves, he is transported to an alternate reality where one of his daughters, Ana, is still alive. Fair enough, he figures, and sets about living in that far more attractive time. Cut to the present(ish) time and James is a mostly invalid old man living with his now adult daughter (Melina Matthews), a therapist who still grieves over the memory of her sister whom her father couldn’t save. 
 
But multiverse-unlocking little MacGuffins like the rock don’t stay hidden in stories like this forever. So while Ana tries to understand while her father is all of a sudden frantic to remember where he hid the mystical thing, his old research assistant, Peter (Rupert Graves), just happens to be in town giving a talk about the Zone of Silence that plays like one of those scientist lectures from a 1950s B-movie in which radiation just mutated something. At the same time, a skittish teenaged kidnapper (Hoze Meléndez) is looking to snatch Ana’s beloved son. None of these developments will raise much of a flutter of interest in any moviegoer. Some will want to know why they’re not hearing more about the Zone of Silence, the supposed reason for the whole story’s existence in the first place. Others will just be looking for the exit.
 
It’s difficult to point to which element of Silencio is least effective: the muffled family drama, the clearly telegraphed third-act reveal, or the barely-there metaphysical backdrop involving splitting time lines. Again, there is enough raw material to work from here—remote desert, strange extraterrestrial happenings, government cover-ups—that a savvier screenplay could have mined at least fools’ gold from. Technical credits are passable, with some effective use of the Zone’s blisteringly sunny vistas. But anyone happening to come across Silencio should just as well move on: There’s nothing to see here.