Miss Bala (2011)

Stephanie Sigman spends an entire movie bein hounded by parents, friends, cops and druglords.
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At a glance:
Mexico's entry to the 84th Oscars earlier this year, Miss Bala (2011) is sorta like a thinkin man's Miss Congeniality (2000) and lead actress Stephanie Sigman is certainly no Sandra Bullock. No, the protagonist isn't an undercover cop but a beauty pageant is the scene of a crime. It's loosely based on the real life exploits of Miss Sinaloa 2008 Laura Zúñiga, who was arrested together with some heavily armed cabrónes in a drug traffickin scandal. Bala is the Spanish for "bullet" and this movie is definitely not short of that, as filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo takes us across the criminal landscape through some pretty close calls.
Fine young thing says her name's Maria
- wrapped her up like a hot tortilla.
Bad news on the doorstep:
The movie is seen completely from the viewpoint of the victim, Laura. As Tom Von Logue Newth writes how the "oft-repeated device of having the back of her head lead the camera makes her a sort of blank everywoman, as though the film is a thrill ride for the spectator, thrown into one dangerous situation after another and denied full knowledge of what exactly is going on." We have no access to any other person's perspective at any point of the movie at all and it can get confusin. This is however, fully intentional, as a technique to achieve that ultra-realistic feel when chroniclin how crime unfolds - you're often wonderin what the hell is happenin. You'll get more upon the second viewin.
Perennial wonderment:
Stephanie Sigman's film debut is emotionally solid, remindin us of Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full Of Grace (2004). But what awaits a new actress who had just turned so many heads? Catalina Sandino Moreno got an Oscar nod for her role in Maria Full Of Grace but her biggest role since is a virtually anonymous vampire in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010). Let's hope Sigman doesn't follow her into oblivion.
World peace will one day reach Mexico, a leadin entry in any Most Dangerous Cities In The World statistic.
Reminds me of:
The gunfire takes me back to Gomorra (2008).
Watch out for:
The showoff scene in the movie - an extended long take followin the girl from her SUV to a truck as she is bein ambushed and rescued. Phwoar. 
Gerardo Naranjo
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Provocative stuff, I like the narrative style and the incredible restraint in just how much we get to see. Four stars. Naranjo has said in an interview with Philip Concannon that the film is very divisive in its native Mexico but has this to say: "There is a ton of material being done about crime in Mexico and most of it is completely surreal or ridiculous. There are movies that are very comedic or farcical in tone and they are doing very well. I was so surprised by this and I feel there is almost an agenda to show crime in a light, entertaining way. That was very strange to me because I had this perception that crime was something very different, and when we went on to research we found out that the crime world is very ignorant, pathetic and grey. We didn't find gold chains or girls all around, you know, we didn't find people having a great time. We found a lot of paranoia and people who were very mistrustful of the people around them. We felt it was a good opportunity to talk about that because nobody was saying that crime was an ugly world, everybody was fixated on this Scarface promotion, and I don't think crime in Mexico has that side. Even the biggest drug lords live a very pathetic life; they are not in a luxury castle but in these dark apartments hiding. It was very important for me to talk about that, to show how these criminals behave and how much they lack a sense of morality. It was kind of an anthropological statement." What a privileged look in we get!
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