‘Below Zero’ is a Spanish thriller film that’s directed by Lluís Quílez, developed from a script by Lluís Quílez and Fernando Navarro. The movie is compelling and sinister enough to keep you on the edge of your seats. The story centers on a rule-abiding police officer who is tasked with the prison transfer of six convicts, but chaos ensues when their transfer van is attacked on the road.
Throughout its runtime, ‘Below Zero’ maintains a sense of dread and panic as events spin out of control and the people inside the police van don’t have any clue as to what’s happening. If you’re looking for a deeper insight into the ending of ‘Below Zero,’ you’re in the right place. We’ll break it down for you right after a quick synopsis. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Below Zero Plot Synopsis
The film starts with a man in a hooded jacket attacking and brutally killing a younger man after the younger man fails to answer his assailant’s question – “Where is she?” We’re offered no explanation as to the identity of either of the men or the “she.” From the subtitles, all we know is that the man being killed is called Chino.
Our story’s main protagonist is Martin, a cop who is a stickler for rules. When Martin gets transferred to a new precinct, his first assignment is to transport a group of convicted criminals from one prison to another in the dead of night. Martin’s new partner is Montesinos, a rule flouter who is unnecessarily rough with the prisoners.
On their way through country backroads, the police car in the front and the police van are attacked by an unknown assailant. The attacker kills three cops, including Montesinos, who goes out to inspect, while Martin takes a bullet in his leg. Martin locks himself in the prisoners’ compartment, just as the mystery attacker takes the driver’s cabin. The attacker also pours gasoline inside the holding cells and lights the prisoners on fire.
Martin is forced to unlock all of their cells to save them from burning, but one of the criminals dies nonetheless. The rest of the convicts overpower Martin, and the attacker starts driving. The attacker/driver speaks to the people inside the truck through Martin’s radio and tells them that he will let them go if they hand over Nano, one of the younger convicts who is serving time for petty crime. Amidst a lot of infighting and chaos, Martin finds his law-abiding convictions failing as new information comes to light.
Below Zero Ending: Why Does Martin Finally Break the Rules?
After the truck sinks into the frozen lake and Martin manages to escape with Ramis, Ramis saves Martin’s life by dragging him to safety and performing CPR on him. Soon after, Ramis asks Martin what he is going to do now, clearly indicating that the ball is in Martin’s court. Martin is grateful that Ramis has saved him, even though Ramis knows full well that Martin would take him back to jail.
At this moment, Martin makes the decision to deviate from his usual principles and lets Ramis go. He asks Ramis what he will name his bar that he’ll open once he gets away. Ramis, looking visibly relieved that Martin is not taking him to prison, talks happily about his plans for opening the best bar in the Dominican Republic before parting ways and walking toward certain freedom.
Martin goes in the opposite direction, where he finds Miguel firing shots at Nano. Martin tries to talk Miguel out of killing Nano, but the older man is quite resolute. Miguel, a former cop himself, fully knows the consequences of his actions and, in fact, plans on surrendering after extracting crucial information from Nano. Miguel is after Nano because he and his friend Chino (the guy who dies at the beginning) had brutally raped and murdered Miguel’s 13-year-old daughter. They’d dumped her body somewhere, and it hadn’t been found. Due to lack of evidence, Nano and Chino had gotten away with the horrific crime.
Why Does Martin Shoot Nano?
After listening to the devastating story, Martin tells Miguel that he cannot be sure of Nano’s guilt. What if Nano really wasn’t the guy who raped and killed Miguel’s daughter? Martin stops Miguel from beating Nano to death because Martin truly believes in the justice system’s fairness. But when the rescue helicopter arrives, and Nano believes that he is saved, he shouts at Miguel that he will never tell him where he put his daughter’s dead body.
Hearing Nano taunt Miguel gives Martin the confirmation of guilt that he needed, and the audience can see something snap inside Martin as he turns the gun onto Nano. Martin breaks the rules yet again as he repeatedly asks Nano, at gunpoint, to tell Miguel what he needs to know. When Nano is not forthcoming, Martin shoots at his hand, blowing it to smithereens, prompting a whimpering Nano to immediately reveal where the body of Miguel’s daughter is. Martin lowers the gun as the police arrive.
Does Martin Get Fired?
Although the end of ‘Below Zero’ does not specifically state that Martin is fired from the police force, it certainly looks that way when Martin empties his locker and walks out of the police station. It’s the logical conclusion because he did shoot a man in the hand in full view of the rescue team, who all clearly saw that it wasn’t an act of self-defense.
Possibly, Martin doesn’t get any jail time himself because the man he shot, Nano, was a convicted prisoner trying to escape. Plus, Martin would also be credited with catching Miguel. Martin could easily have walked the other way after his escape from the lake, but he chose to do his duty and willingly landed himself in the middle of the Miguel-Nano conflict. So it makes sense that he would only get suspended or fired versus jail time for his actions.
Read More: Where was Below Zero Filmed?