Desierto offers a story of immigration at a time when perhaps it is most needed. At its heart, the movie is a display of raw, relentless tension without any gimmicks. Moises (Gael Garcia Benal) is one of a truck-full of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the US. Forced to abandon their truck after it breaks down they begin on foot, unknowing of the perils that lie ahead in the form of troubled rancher Sam, (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). So begins the insidious pursuit of a hunter motivated by a misplaced nationalism. From then on the troupe battle man, animal, and the elements in a desperately tense struggle for survival.
Director Jonas Cuaron is unafraid to shock, with scenes that would rival Roman Polanski in gory realness. If the visual chase ever gives a viewer a break from nail-biting tension then the sound track won’t: a symphony of tension that plays with disorientating noise and serene compositions emulates the feelings of panic, fear and exhaustion in its protagonists. The heroine Adela is portrayed in bold and determined performance from Alondra Hidalgo.
The dialogue is limited and the plot is peppered with some unbelievable characters and situations that exist only in their convenience for maintaining the drama. These include a villain who maintains a cracking shot after consuming copious quantities of alcohol, and a dog with such a temperamental sense of smell that he can house an insatiable appetite for the scent of flesh in one moment, and a blasé attitude when his prey is tantalizingly close in another. Whether anyone would be able to survive with the lack of water they are faced with remains to be seen. Beyond that, though, lie some incredible performances and the impressive feat of maintaining a tense atmosphere from beginning to end.
For anybody seeking a fast-paced, frustratingly hopeless and almost unbearably tense watch, this is the film. The desert set is fantastic for highlighting the cat-and-mouse chase the cast, and the viewer, will embark upon.
Desierto does not have a release date yet.