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Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín weaves a pulpy, but literary detective story with Neruda, his most entertaining and stunning effort to date.

It’s part biopic and part mythological deconstruction. When famed senator and poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) goes into hiding following the Chilean government’s outlawing of Communism in 1948, a tenacious, hardboiled government gumshoe (Gael García Bernal) leads the manhunt.

Disinterested with telling history how it is and even less interested in turning either of his protagonists into saints, Larraín instead mounts a fugitive vs. dogged marshal picture that doesn’t tip its hat towards any sort of literary pretensions until it’s expertly executed twist of a climax. Gnecco plays Neruda not only as an academic, but also like a mob boss; his appearance, cadence, and demeanour akin to that of Tony Soprano. Bernal matches that by way of skeptical, purposefully derogatory narration towards his prey and an arrogant swagger that calls to mind Kevin Costner in The Untouchables.

Sure, none of this happened the way Neruda says it did, but by employing such style, wit, and creativity Larraín finds a way to the metaphorical heart of history and one of the world’s most celebrated authors at the same time.