A crazed white guy hunts illegal Mexican immigrants in the desert, in Jonás Cuarón’s Desierto. Jonás Cuarón is the son Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), and like his father, Jonás is an adroit filmmaker. Desierto is well-composed and executed, with some stunning wide-screen sequences and shots of the desert, and throughout the film, Cuarón mixes handheld camerawork, static shots, and slow pans, and splices close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots to offer perspective and keep us engaged. As a result, the action, unlike so much of the action in movies today, is presented steadily and coherently. There’s even some lightly sprinkled symbolism: One of the border crossers is named Moises, and the movie starts out with someone reading a passage from Exodus, in which the Israelites leave Egypt and go into the desert; by analogy, the crazed white guy, whose truck has a tattered Confederate flag affixed to it, is an Amalekite, for the Amalekites attacked the Israelites in the desert, according to the Bible. Desierto’s major fault lies in its schematic characters—evil white guy versus Hispanic victims—that go virtually undeveloped. Gael García Bernal, who plays Moises, is given a thin backstory and, for fans of Con Air, the risible mission of returning a teddy bear to his offspring. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s crazed white guy is a cipher—a redneck Terminator. There is a standout performance, however, and it belongs to Tracker the Dog, who plays the redneck’s remarkably trained, ruthless companion, proving that not all psychopaths hate animals. So at least one stereotype is broken.
In Spanish & English.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White