Director: Jonas Cuaron
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Higaldo, Diego Catano
Running Time: 94 mins
Release Date: Out now on DVD, EST and VOD.
DESIERTO follows a group of Mexicans as they attempt to make the dangerous illegal crossing into the United States. On their journey, they come across a crazed vigilante who enjoys stalking, hunting and killing migrants as they come into the US side of the desert.
Films with seemingly simple story lines have to get everything right in order to work. Unfortunately, Desierto does not do this. The basic structure of the story works really well, and is very effective in the first 15 minutes. However, Jonas Cuaron was unable to get the true sense of terror and urgency right. The film is essentially one giant chase sequence with Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunting a group of Mexicans including Moises (Gael Garcia Bernal). This should encourage the audience to feel tense or on the edge of their seats, but it doesn’t quite pack that emotional punch.
It is important to mention that the performances in Desierto are good. No character appears over-the-top or unrealistic, but it feels as if the characters were not the main concern of the director. Visually, Desierto is fantastic; there are some great shots of the baron and dry desert landscape. With a film that takes place entirely outdoors, it is very difficult to keep the audience interested in desert scenes, but Jonas Cuaron manages to do so. It just seems like too much time was dedicated to this rather than the human impact of the story. Given the events currently unfolding in the United States, Desierto could have been a haunting reminder of the growing tensions in that area, but instead it serves as nothing more than a passable film with good performances and a mildly entertaining plot.
Overall, Desierto is disappointing because it is easy to see what it could have become, had the director shifted his focus onto the wider issue rather than this individual story. It just seems too cold to be trying to carry the heavy message of the price of racist attitudes. The characters in this should represent a major moral issue, but instead are merely fodder for a feature length film.