REVIEW – Miss Bala (2011)

Videovista have my review of Gerardo Naranjo’s Mexican crime movie Miss Bala.

The film tells of a young woman who attempts to sign up for a beauty pageant but winds up getting involved with a gang of Mexican drug traffickers. In the hands of a less ambitious director, this set-up might have resulted in one of those horrific fish-out-of-water films like Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob (1988) or Donald Petrie’s Miss Congeniality (2000). However, rather than play-up the comic elements of the culture clash, Naranjo uses them as the basis for a coming-of-age movie that skewers the values of contemporary Mexican society:

The idea that Mexico is nothing more than an oceanic darkness lurking beneath a thin strip of human pretence is present throughout the film’s cinematography. Miss Bala is an intensely dark and moody film and the only time that Naranjo allows us to escape the darkness is in the few sun-kissed moments when Laura is attempting to pass herself off as an innocent civilian. Compared to the shadows of Laura’s day-to-day existence, the floodlit wonderland of the beauty pageants, shopping trips and garden parties seems both grotesquely fake and beautifully alluring.

Miss Bala is an intensely clever and absolutely beautifully shot film that must class as one of the best crime movies to appear in the last couple of years.