Tuesday, 20 July 2010

John Doe.

Last year's Sin Nombre kept getting spoken of, and I remember seeing it advertised all over the place here in London. But I remember the poster just didn't do anything for me. I'd been a bit out of the loop with what was getting hype, but I'd hear about the film, think of the poster... it never appealed to me. Finally, someone said something that got me thinking about it and I thought, what the hell. Give it a shot. And damned glad I did.

Cary Fukunaga's Spanish language debut film is set in Mexico amongst the gangs and clans. Violence is the way of the streets, and most of the characters we are introduced to engage in it, or want to engage in it. El Casper is a member, initiating young Smiley whilst trying to lead a double life with a girlfriend from the right side of the tracks who is suspecting him of infidelity due to the hidden nature of his thug life. When she confronts him at a meeting of the gang one of Casper's peers rapes her and accidentally kills her. Shortly after they are robbing attempted illegal immigrants on top of a train going through Mexico towards the border with the US when the same gang member talks of raping another girl. Casper's response isn't positive.

Smiley heads back to the gang to tell them of what has happened to be threatened due to not taking action at the time. To make up for it he promises to get Casper before he escapes to the States. Casper meanwhile has managed to befriend the girl he protected, and the two get off the train together before the police pounce on the illegals. They make it to the border, but Smiley awaits...

Visually the film reminded me heavily of City of God, with the colours and the vibrancy, especially when mixed with the underworld themes. And the general vibe of the film radiated similar energy - it's hard to really pin it down beyond the obvious similarities between the two thematically. Like City of God, Sin Nombre is a terrific film.

Fukunaga brings incredible depth of emotion and character to a number of characters who should essentially be unlikeable. Casper is conflicted, this is shown from the outset, but the solidarity of the gang members and their feelings over their land and their fallen comrades is incredibly touching and no less valid than similar feelings outside of the world of violence. Smiley especially should not, by rights, be a sympathetic character, with his overwhelming desire to become a killer and his pledge to seek vengeance against someone who was merely standing up against the threatened rape of an innocent girl. But you do feel for him, you feel for his youth, his naivety and his lost future. In twenty years he will be a hardened criminal with no way out, if he makes it that far, but right now he is someone with no idea what he is getting himself into, but throwing himself into the perceived glamour of the lifestyle with scary gusto.

Relative unknown Adriano Goldman provides the beautiful images that, it has to be said, do seem to be becoming a bit par for the course for this sort of Mexican film. Yes, they are stunning to look at, but it's not entirely original. Props to his work, however, and I look forward to his next collaboration with Fukunaga on the upcoming adaptation of Jane Eyre - something very different indeed. I also remembered loving the music, what I remember of it.

Future husband Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna EPd the film, which was produced by Amy Kaufman, who interestingly EPd Bernal and Luna's breakout film Y Tu Mamá También. A terrific effort all round, definitely worth checking out and one worth remembering. 4.5 stars.

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