It’s probably an apt time for a movie set and filmed around the US-Mexico border and focusing on border patrol agents to be released. But director Greg Kwedar’s Transpecos, is less about building walls and fighting “bad hombres” (well, to an extent it is) and more about the power of choice. Transpecos is Kwedar’s feature film directorial debut, and has already received a good amount of critical acclaim following its world premiere at South by Southwest last year.
Benjamin Davis (Johnny Simmons), Lance Flores (Gabriel Luna) and Lou Hobbs (Clifton Collins Jr) are three border patrol agents idly working in a remote desert checkpoint until a routine stop goes awry and puts them in a dangerous situation. What’s fascinating is that, as the plot unfolds over the course of one day, it exposes their diametrically opposed stances on morality, despite none of them being a traditional antagonist. Transpecos is a tense and pressurised film that begs the audience to consider the moral ramifications of dealing with life and death decisions.
This is done masterfully. The core perspectives of each character are entrenched, but are elaborated upon to explore the difficult interplay between adhering to a strict black and white morality versus a survivalist mentality. There are no easy answers, and the movie allows the audience to come to their own conclusions. Transpecos is set against the backdrop of the cartel violence that has plagued Mexico and the southern United States for over a decade. Refreshingly, the film doesn’t sensationalise the Drug War. With strong references in the dialogue, cartel warfare features mostly as context to the characters’ choices, lingering as an ominous shadow rather than through numerous explicit scenes.
Kwedar shot the movie in just 15 days in the deserts of New Mexico and uses their natural beauty to generate some gorgeous shots of a massive arid expanse. The desert setting and low-key score also create an atmosphere of loneliness and isolation. This largely unknown cast give strong and insightful performances, providing a thought-provoking and unique spin on a topical theme. At only 86 minutes long, Transpecos is a tremendous success and a fantastic debut feature from Kwedar.
Transpecos is released nationwide on 24th February 2017.
Watch the trailer for Transpecos here: