Free Press Journal

Desierto: Timely action thriller


Film: Desierto 

Cast:  Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo, David Lorenzo, Diego Cataño, Marco Pérez, Oscar Flores

Director/co-writer: Jonas Cuaron 

Watching the tennis star turned Hollywood producer Vijay Amritraj’s 2012 interview with Donald Trump on TV, I learnt the US president elect’s favourite films are Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind. Desierto may not figure in Donald Trump’s Top Ten but its storyline is bound to resonate with the “deplorables” who agree with Trump’s character assassination of Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug cartel gangsters.

Because the antagonist is a gringo who hunts down Mexican migrants south of the border.Skirting around race and immigration, this film is then, needless to say, timely. Director/co-writer Jonas Cuaron shared the screenwriting credits for “Gravity” with his father, the renowned Oscar-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. In Desierto, Cuaron addresses the issue of survival in an inhospitable terrain.

Like the best novelists, young Cuaron has a terrific sense of place although the characterisation can be quarrelled with.  As in most feature films and TV serials like Breaking Bad, we see a group of Mexicans (top lined here, by Gael García Bernal’s Moises and  Alondra Hidalgo’s Adela) in the back of a  “delivery truck” heading for a safely deserted spot along the U.S.- Mexican border. Unsurprisingly, the truck breaks down.

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On the American side of the border is a hard-drinking vigilante named Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who lives in a time-warp (like some Americans still do) a Confederate flag attests to his political/social credo. There’s also a rifle to shoot “rabbits” and a Mexican or three.

Now Sam runs into 14 unarmed men and women whom he sees as invaders; no, not amigos. (“My God, they just keep coming “) Uncle Sam is a metaphor for the American government. Here, the US army recruitment meme “Uncle Sam wants you” assumes sinister tones as the villain embarks on a sniping spree. Enough said about this brutal and bloody action thriller.