And so it began. If you don’t already know it, you will learn from this movie that in Northern Mexico—where the movie is set; no more details are given—kidnapping is, for all intents and purposes, an industry, and those so-called “cartels” control more than drugs. It’s as ugly as the teenager who arranged Laura’s kidnapping—and she’s so repulsive in a vivid performance of Daniel Garcia—He’s a sociopathic cog in a terrible system. One that, as depicted in this silent non-stop movie, is all allowed by official law enforcement due to a combination of indifference, fatigue, and corruption.
After dealing with the aforementioned estranged husband Gustavo, whose new girlfriend Rosy is the definition of sketchy, the two combine what they have and deliver it—a pickup truck and all. As their friends said, there was nothing else to do. Of course, El Puma and his bitter companions did not live up to their end of the bargain. Cielo goes through the usual circuits almost halfheartedly. And then, after an accidental tip from a funeral director—whose place of business is now a dumping ground for police corpse dumping and an extortion target for cartels—it begins he surveys the cartels. A chance encounter with an army brigade gives him, at first, nothing more than a business card. But then it receives a visit from a potentially rude, or just independent—who knows this infernal mess?—commander, Lieutenant Lamarque (Jorge J. Jiménez). He takes the data collected by Cielo and offers him a ride on their night raids, where the Army proves to be as ruthless and lawless as the cartel kids.
This movie grabs your heart easily and doesn’t let up on the tension at any crucial time. But it was done in a very quiet way. There is no musical score that can lift you up or bring you down. Director Mihai favors long handheld shots that put you in the characters. His style is slightly reminiscent of the Belgian Dardennes brothers, who, as it happens, are one of the film’s executive producers.
So many of these abduction stories are never resolved that, as viewers here, we are almost conditioned not to get answers. As it turns out, that’s not the perfect situation. Cielo’s loyalty allows him to put together many pieces of the puzzle — including the more petty and macho reason El Puma targeted Laura in the first place — and that layer of narrative complexity also enriches the already powerful movie. Its moral complexity, shown in its final minutes, is also a good example.
Now playing in select theaters.