Miss Bala (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner28/10/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Gripping and heart-breaking in equal measure, this is an impressively directed and superbly acted thriller that plays like a collaboration between the Dardennes Brothers and Michael Mann.

What's it all about?
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo (I'm Going To Explode), Miss Bala is set in the border town of Baja, Mexico (the title is a play on Baja/Bala that translates as 'Miss Bullet') and stars model-turned-actress Stephanie Sigman as Laura Guerrero, a young woman who dreams of winning the Miss Baja beauty pageant in order to help out her poverty-stricken father and younger brother. The night before the contest, Laura goes to a seedy nightclub with her best friend Suzu (Lakshmi Picazo) and ends up witnessing a bloody shoot-out.

When Laura attempts to find Suzu the next morning she asks a local cop for help but he drives her straight to local crime boss Lino (Noe Hernandez), the man behind the nightclub hit. After hiding out at her father's place following a gun battle injury, Lino offers to help find Suzu in return for a series of favours and soon Laura is caught up in an ever-increasing spiral of corruption and criminal activity.

The Good
Stephanie Sigman anchors the film with a terrific central performance as Laura, whose seemingly passive acceptance of her fate (she's no kick-ass heroine, despite the title) is heart-breaking to watch. Needless to say, her character is intended as a cypher for the Mexican people, powerless to prevent the vicious gang warfare erupting around them thanks to a corruption at all levels and a collusive police force.

Using long, fluid takes (courtesy of cinematographer Matyas Erdely) and minimal dialogue, Naranjo's direction is extremely impressive throughout: the camera stays with Laura at all times (in a manner that recalls the work of the Dardennes Brothers) so that all the action happens around her, often just off-screen. This is particularly effective during the numerous gunfights; the camera sticks closely to a diving-for-cover Laura as the air around her explodes with deafening gunfire, Michael Mann-style.

The Great
The excellent script rewards close attention to detail, with news reports and snatches of conversation revealing information that Laura doesn't always pick up on. In addition, Naranjo orchestrates a number of powerful and memorable scenes, the highlight of which is the brilliantly ironic beauty pageant sequence.

Worth seeing?
Brilliantly directed and superbly written, Miss Bala is an utterly gripping and powerfully moving thriller with a terrific central performance from Stephanie Sigman. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Miss Bala (15)
Be the first to review Miss Bala...
01 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (tbc)

Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, ...

02 The Theory of Everything (tbc)

Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson

03 Pride (15)

Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Sta...

04 What We Did on Our Holidays (12A)

David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Anne...

05 The Guest (15)

Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry

Content updated: 31/08/2014 01:30

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Night Moves Film Review

Engaging and provocative, this is a fiercely introspective thriller from writer-director Kelly Reichardt, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films

Hot Tickets

Film 4 Summer ScreenFilm 4 Summer Screen

Taking over the big screen at Somerset House again for August 2014, the Film 4 Summer Screen series brings a variety of classics and brand new films to audiences in the capital.