‘Adagio’ Review: A Gripping Tale Of Survival Set Amidst Chaos And Pursuit

Crime thrillers have a different level of beast that is hard to tame. As a genre, crime thrillers are the most watched the world over as they peek into the lives of the underbelly of any city. It excites the people, as this life is one most of the target audience would never come into contact with. Adagio is an Italian film that takes place over twenty-four hours, and it changes the lives of everyone involved in a crime that was committed to get rid of a powerful person. Directed by Stefano Sollima, the Italian thriller film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2023. Adagio has been streaming on Netflix since May 13, 2024.

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Adagio is just over two hours long and covers the story of a young boy named Manuel, who was assigned the job of recording and photographing people at a very private party. Manuel is a scared young boy who happens to notice a camera fixed inside the venue, which may have caught him consuming some narcotics. Petrified of what the outcome could be, Manuel runs off to his father’s old acquaintance, Polniuman, who asks him to get help from another old acquaintance Romeo. Manuel’s father, Daytona, Polniuman, and Romeo were a part of a deadly gang that terrorized the streets of Rome at one point. Currently, all of them were old and sick, and only Romeo, who went by the name Cammello as well, was close to healthy enough to help Manuel get out of trouble. Romeo/Cammello was let out of jail for his chronic illness, and he was forced to help the kid and go against the better judgment of his wife.

Vasco, a corrupt police officer, had hired two of his best officers for a client who wanted to trap a minister by releasing videos of him in a compromising situation from the party. Vasco had thus hired Manuel for the job, but since the boy had run away out of fear, it was his duty to get the phone back and make sure the boy did not spill the beans later. Will Romeo save Manuel? What was the history between Daytona and Romeo? Does Vasco capture Manuel by the end of the film?

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The biggest highlight of the film is that the screenplay is straightforward and barely deviates from the subject matter. The story and screenplay are excellent at allowing the audience to immerse themselves in this 24-hour-long story of survival. Everyone is trying to save themselves in one way or another. While Romeo/Cammello wants to wash his hands of the world of crime by helping Manuel, the young boy wants an out as well. Vasco, the corrupt police officer, wants to use the money from the assignment to be used to fight for the custody of his children. 

These are some of the concerns they are trying to escape. The screenplay merges the actual fire on the outskirts of the city well with the story of Adagio. The fire, which is spreading wildly, also mirrors how fast matters between Manuel and Vasco escalate. There is no happy ending in either case, as the fire that has started will only cause destruction and death. Writers Stefano Bises and Stefano Sollima make sure to present a simple story with a hauntingly beautiful narrative that leads to a conclusion that is completely unexpected but realistic.

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Adagio also dives very well into father-son dynamics, and it is interesting to find out these characters are not inherently bad. Their circumstances made them behave a certain way. Manuel and Romeo were not supposed to run into each other. Romeo, an elderly man with a chronic illness, takes it up as a challenge to help the young boy, even though Manuel’s father was not a good person. Vasco’s relationship with his boys could also explain how men like him cannot be characterized as just black and white. They are all products of certain situations and expectations. There is a reason why this film was competing for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2023. The narrative is heartbreaking and emotional. There is a sense of urgency created by the writers and the makers, which makes us want to watch the film till the end. The minor subplots add to the existing screenplay, which develops into something bigger and more interesting as the climax approaches. 

The movie is set amidst raging fires and constant power cuts, which is a sign of chaos in the city and why crime could be thriving. The makers also include how cruel aging can be, and they do not discriminate between criminals and the normal citizens of the state. The character graphs of Manuel and Romeo are especially well crafted. The bond they share is probably the closest Manuel will come to having a true father figure in his life despite having a real father. The existence of corruption is well explored in the screenplay, as is the extent to which people would go to save themselves from living off the streets. It is the direction by Stefano Sollima that takes the cake. The man is in full control of his craft and the screenplay, and it can take the narrative forward without causing any confusion. The background score blends well with the narrative.

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The performances of the actors shoulder the film right from the start. Pierfrancesco Favino as Romeo/Cammello is unrecognizable. He sinks his teeth into the character of Romeo, who is sick, yet he finds the strength in him to save the young boy from a horrible fate. He feels the need to keep the young boy away from a life of crime. Adriano Giannini as Vasco, Toni Servillo as Daytona, and Valerio Mastandrea as Polniuman are perfectly cast in the film. They bring the intensity to the film that is required to take the narrative forward. Gianmarco Franchini, as young Manuel, can convey a lot of pain and fear, which makes him sensitive and vulnerable.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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