By Angela Stevens
“Desierto” is a brutal Mexican thriller on the verge of horror. The film centers on a dangerous landscape and the people who inhabit it.
“Desierto” takes place in the harsh desert on the border between Mexico and the United States. The film itself is about a group of Mexican immigrants who have the unfortunate luck of being hunted one by one by a deranged shooter.
The film starts out with a group of people sitting in a cramped truck waiting to reach their destination in America. The truck breaks down for unknown reasons in the middle of nowhere. The driver asks Moises (Gael Garc_Òå_a Bernal), who is a mechanic and fellow traveler, if he can get the truck up and running. When Moises realizes he cannot fix the truck, the passengers are forced to continue their journey by foot in 120-degree weather.
The group crosses the border with no difficulty, but everything that occurs while they try to get out of the desert is far from easy.
As the travelers forge on, they are eventually separated when the group splits into two, one being the “stronger” and the other being deemed as the “weaker” for moving at a slower pace.
The goal of making it to an American town or city leaves everyone’s mind when a crazy man named Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) takes out more than 10 people in under a minute with his perfect sharpshooting. This makes the remaining members resort to survival mode.
Morgan plays this part with true blind hate for the people he kills. At times, Morgan’s character is at a quiet ease while pulling the trigger, and at other times he is filled with pure, incoherent rage.
Fans of “The Walking Dead” and “Watchmen” understand what it means to loathe Morgan, since he’s been killing everyone’s favorite characters for years.
Without a doubt, psycho Sam is a xenophobe and a racist. He is disgusted by what he thinks is the inaction of the border control or government to solve what he thinks is the problem with society.
What also becomes clear to the audience later on is that he believes that he is being an American patriot for murdering the people who he believes are ruining his country. What does become unclear in brief moments of the film is if he is having doubts about the evil he commits.
Unlike the immigrants, Morgan’s character is not a part of any group. In fact, he himself is a complete outsider from society.
The film at times tries to draw the conclusion that the deadly heat is what provokes the devil in people, with even the immigrants turning on one another.
In reality, Morgan’s character has such abundant internal problems that he does not realize he is creating an external problem and that murdering people is his sick way of solving the deep problems in his depraved mind and life. However, this coping mechanism he has developed will not solve his problem because there will always be more people to kill.
Moises serves as the protagonist and the balance to the evil in the film. The audience never hears him speak much, but a few kind acts reveal he is a decent person that just wants to get back to his young son in Oakland. Also, Bernal’s beautifully intense green eyes help take away from the sheer ugliness of the film.
By the end of the film, the most terrifying thought that lingers in the minds of viewers is the reality that something like this could actually happen to people crossing the border or even that similar events could have already taken place.
All in all, the film is dark, bleak and offers no forgiveness for the characters or the audience it holds captive in its intensity.
“Desierto” is rated R for strong violence and language.
“Desierto” is in theatres now.
Courtesy of STX Entertainment
‘Desierto’ movie poster
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