Alal has come to town to win back his wife and son, but he's off to a rough start. After picking a fight with a local citizen for no apparent reason, Alal lands himself in jail, where he'll wait for approximately two days until he goes to trial to further decide his fate. While he sits shamefully in his cell, thinking his situation couldn't possibly get any worse, a man named Al Daban strolls into the holding station with a secret hidden up his sleeve. Al Daban may bear an officer's uniform, but his regard for respecting laws and ancient customs comes to a screeching halt once the subject in question begins to involve anyone other than himself.

This dangerous stranger does take a certain set of rules seriously, but they mostly involve men keeping their word, particularly when it comes to keeping mum about the dead man in the hall closet. Desperate to escape this man and rid himself of his crazy antics, Alal struggles to maintain any sense of power from inside his cell. Now, with his family on their way to the station to identify him, and a madman holding the keys to the castle, Alal must maintain the composure, the strength, and the wit to survive this worsening series of events if he's to ever gain freedom and win back his loved ones once and for all.

The character of standout bad guy Al Daban is a perfect blend of charismatic charm and deadly manipulation, and he twists and maneuvers the morality and actions of everyone around him to his liking. As he stations a transistor radio in the center of the room and dances around all of the little fires he's created with speculative joy, it becomes a sick thrill just to see what tricks he'll pull next. It seems that Alal is completely without hope as he watches helplessly from behind the bars that bind him, but like a predator who taunts his prey before pouncing, Al Daban will find his innate pride to be as much of a hindrance as it is a help.

Aside from pulling great performances out of his actors, Majid Al Ansari's directorial debut is a success because of his contagious enthusiasm for film that shines through each scene. The sense of claustrophobia is palpable, even in the bird's-eye view shots. Because they're locked up far away from society in the middle of nowhere, it begs the question: even if Alal escapes, where will he go? How long will he survive alone in the hot desert? And even if he does manage to find someone, who will be willing to help him?

It's an old story—two men enter, one man leaves—but Ansari manages to shed new light on the timeless tale of man vs. man through confident direction, effective genre mashing, and one of the most terrifically wicked cinematic villains in recent memory.

If ever there was a reason needed to explain why there should be more films coming out of the United Arab Emirates, Majid Al Ansari's Zinzana, aka Rattle the Cage, would provide a sound argument. The first genre film to ever be released from the region, and only the fifth film, period, to ever come from the area, Zinzana proves to be as impressive as it is important to the future of cinema in the Middle East. Hopefully, more genre films from the blossoming foreign industry will follow Zinzana’s lead, and if audiences are lucky, some of those movies might even be helmed by director Ansari himself.

Movie Score: 4.5/5

Trailer via Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films: