Screening Room – MISS BALA

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(KTSF by Sean Au)

Laura (Stephanie Sigman) lives with her father and young brother, selling clothes for a living. The walls of her room are pasted with glamorous pictures of famous stars whose lifestyles Laura can only dream of. After being accepted as a contestant for Miss Baja California, she joins her best friend at a night club at night. A local drug lord, Lino (Noe Hernandez), and his gang carry out an ambush of narcotics officers who hang out at the club. Laura’s looks help her to escape the fate of being killed as an innocent witness, but this also begins her descent. Unable to run away, Laura first has to drive a truck containing dead bodies to the American consulate under the watchful eyes of Lino; and that leads to trafficking drug money across the border and worse crimes. At the end of three days, Laura has endured and witnessed unspeakable crimes committed by the drug lord, while winning the rigged Miss Baja California beauty pageant, missing death a good couple of times.

MISS BALA is Mexico’s entry to the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The title of the movie, MISS BALA, means Miss Bullet. The story is inspired by a real case in Mexico four years ago where a beauty queen was arrested with members of the lucrative drug community. In that arrest, cash and guns were found in their vehicle.  Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon started his crackdown against drug activities in 2006, tens of thousands of people have died in what comes close to resemble a war against militias. Needless to say, many victims are innocent bystanders to the conflict.

The fire exchange sequences are well orchestrated and mostly shot in single takes, the audience following what the camera chooses to capture amidst all the action that is going on. These violent shootouts, stripped of well packaged violence in most Hollywood fares, bring the violence closer to home. Many scenes are shot from directly behind the head of Miss Bala, a device to draw us into the action. Also impressive, are the head-on shots on Miss Bala, that shows her growing despair over her predicament. This is a drug war movie seen from the eyes of a girl who can no longer escape her misfortune.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

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