Genre: Action, Drama
Director: Gerardo Naranjo
Starring: Stephanie Sigman, Noe Hernandez, Irene Azuela, Jose Yenque
Language: Spanish, English
Duration: 113 min.
The story of a young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.
Miss Bala is a film written and directed by Gerardo Naranjo, based loosely on real events. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard Section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. It was Mexico's official submission to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) is 23, she lives in a poor area of Tijuana with her father and younger brother, and gets by selling clothes they make at the market. She has a dream though to become Miss Baja California, and so she heads to the city one morning with her best friend in order to try out. It doesn't take long until she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time where she gets unwittingly dragged into one dangerous situation after another at the hands of a ruthless cartel and the DEA.
It's an intense and stylish exercise by Naranjo, who uses some very well choreographed long takes of realistic action to make it feel like we are witnessing the events first hand. Adding to this is the single point of view that the story follows, this is all about Laura and we get to see every moment of her terror, often with the camera pointed straight on her shell shocked face, as she is taken on an escalating sequence of events well out of her control.
Fortunately, Sigman is not just a pretty face, she handles the role impressively and succeeds at getting the audience to sympathize and feel her predicament. Unlike some other films with characters in situations like this where I often lose interest or even hope they don't make it to the end, here I was on Laura's side the entire time, and that has a lot to do with some clever writing that avoids typical action thriller tropes and especially Sigman's evocative performance.
The story however is extremely and relentlessly grim and heavy handed, Laura or should I say Mexico, is basically a helpless passive bystander caught in a war zone, victimized and put through a living hell indiscriminately by both sides of the law, continuously without any choice or real hope of escape. Sure it's all done with talent and style, and I do still give it a strong recommendation, but the non stop nature of it left me feeling a bit numb in the end.
— Bonjour Tristesse