Desierto (2016)

Rated R
Drama / Thriller
Try pairing with:  Shakshouka w/ Feta

Jen’s Rating:  C

Wow, Desierto was totally not I expected. This no big names in this movie it sure was packed with entertainment. The movie opens with a dozen or more Mexicans, each for different reasons, attempting to illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States.

Knowing how tricky and dangerous crossing the border is the group dared to continue on foot after their vehicle had broken down. A lonely, racist alcoholic man named Sam played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan daily traversed the Californian desert. The group of immigrants reached an opening and frantically run through when Sam attempts to murder them all due to being prejudice.  He succeeded in assassinating everyone except for 2.

Adela played by Alondra Hidalgo and Moises played by Gael Garcia Bernal was more than Sam had bargained for. The 2 of them were clever while deceiving, distracting and baffling Sam while attempting to escape his bullets. This only caused Sam to become more and more angry causing his hate to overflow.

Desierto was very disturbing however we were unable to turn it off which is the reason I gave it a C. I was constantly on the edge of my seat hoping that Adela and Hidalgo escaped alive. Although this movie was average it had several exceptional moments. What kept Desierto from tanking was the fresh acting. This cast put forth remarkable efforts and made the movie. I don’t know if I’ll search to watch this movie again however if it comes on the TV I’m not sure I’ll be able to turn it off.

Jeremy’s Rating:  B-

Desierto is the sophomore full-feature effort from director Jonás Cuarón, and is a bleak, but entirely possible film about Mexican migrants attempting to gain entry to the United States.  However, there is a horrible twist to this equation; upon crossing the river border into US territory they are systematically hunted like animals by a self-styled “patriot”, Sam, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  The group of migrants are abandoned shortly after beginning their journey, as the coyotes helping them in the crossing are executed and run away, leaving one man, Moises (Gael Garcia Bernal) to take charge, despite having no idea where he is or where to go.

The reason that I cannot score this film any higher isn’t due to a lack of content or quality, as everyone, especially the leading characters do a wonderful job at their parts and create a true dynamic of terror as they are being hunted by a seemingly unstoppable killer.  Sam is armed to the teeth, has a knowledge of the desert they are trying to cross through, and has a truck for transport as well, leading Moises to have to improvise to avoid him and stay ahead of what appears to be his inevitable death.

The film follows a relatively slow pace, but the sections where it begins to draw out are punctuated by those of high tension and the ultimate fear.  Whereas some may believe in monsters, ghosts, and the supernatural, nothing compares to the terror of a very real enemy who hates you and believes you should die simply for being who you are.  Desierto touches on real fears and does a great job of showing brutality at its most harrowing.  You’ll either love or hate the ending, finding it cliché ort exactly what the doctor ordered, but the one thing I can guarantee is that you’ll likely enjoy this movie.

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