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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.18.11] Mexico review thriller drama crime

Year: 2011
Director: Gerardo Naranjo
Writers: Gerardo Naranjo, Mauricio Katz
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Life for Laura Guerrero isn't easy. The daughter of a street vendor who eeks out a living for himself and his family by selling clothing at local markets, Laura has bigger dreams and on a sunny morning, she sets off for the city and a shot at stardom. She arrives at the offices of the local beauty pageant to find her friend holding a spot for her. She makes the first cut and is reluctantly dragged to celebrate at a local hangout. While trying to make her escape, she finds herself in the middle of a bust and as men with guns invade the club, she huddles in the corner confused and scared for her life.

Though she finally gets away, her freedom doesn't last long and soon Laura finds herself in the hands of a cartel which is waging war against American agents and their Mexican counterparts while the terror stricken young woman, a new player, finds herself a mule for money and ammunition; so Laura becomes Miss Bala.

Gerardo Naranjo's tale if one of a girl who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing in Laura's life connects her to the cartel and the only reason she finds herself in the middle of this unfolding nightmare is because she happened to be in the club at the time of the attack. Laura finds herself in the middle of something she doesn't fully understand and for that matter, neither does the audience. Naranjo and Mauricio Katz's story unfolds through events that Laura is involved with and we seldom see anything happening outside her field of vision. The result is a fast paced series of events that often don't appear to have any connection.

The limited focus of the story only provides a slice of the action and we're never fully certain of the extent and reach of the unfolding events. At times not knowing is infuriating but for the most part it proves a fantastic tool for keeping the audience captivated with what's unfolding in the moment. I found myself so busy with what was going on that I never considered what could be coming next or where the story was heading and so Miss Bala managed to take me on an unexpected trip.

Laura is our guide through the war and Stephanie Sigman more than lives up to the challenge. She doesn't have it easy, her character is often scared and speechless but Sigman delivers a performance that shows Laura as both a vulnerable and a determined young woman willing to do anything to keep her family safe. For that matter, much of Naranjo's story unfolds with little dialogue and the tight script leaves no room for useless bits of dialogue and banter; every word and phrase is important.

Miss Bala is the perfect mix of arthouse and mainstream. Not only is it a fast paced, action packed and often violent tale, it's also a gorgeously captured story of a girl who gets mixed up in some nasty business. What's most impressive is that though it's never mentioned, it's clear that Miss Bala is just one person's experience in the long raging battle between the cartels and that on any given day, any number of innocent bystanders find themselves in similar situations.

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